WHO ARE THE ACTORS IN THIS
I. PROPHECY OF EZEKIEL, CHAPTERS 38 AND 39
38 And the word of Jehovah came unto me saying, 2 Son of man, set thy face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him, 3 and say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal: 4 and I will turn thee about, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed in full armor, a great company with buckler and shield, all of them handling swords: 5 Persia, Cush, and Put with them, all of them with shield and helmet; 6 Gomer, and all his hordes; the house of Togarmah in the uttermost parts of the north, and all his hordes; even many people with thee.
7 Be thou prepared, yea, prepare thyself, thou, and all thy companies that are assembled unto thee, and be thou a guard unto them. 8 After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, that is gathered out of many peoples, 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. 9 And thou shalt ascend, thou shalt come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy hordes, and many peoples with thee.
10 Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: It shall come to pass in that day, that things shall come into thy mind, and thou shalt devise an evil device: 11 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, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates; 12 to take the spoil and to take the prey; to turn thy hand against the waste places that are now inhabited, and against the people that are gathered out of the nations, that have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the middle of the earth. 13 Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take the spoil? hast thou assembled thy company to take the prey? To carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take great spoil?
14 Therefore, son of man, prophesy, and say unto Gog, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: In that day when my people Israel dwelleth securely, shalt thou not know it? 15 And thou shalt come from thy place out of the uttermost parts of the north, thou, and many peoples with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company and a mighty army; 16 and thou shalt come up against my people Israel, as a cloud to cover the land: 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.
17 Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Art thou he of whom I spake in old time by my servants the prophets of Israel, that prophesied in those days for many years that I would bring thee against them? 18 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. 19 For in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken, Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel; 20 so that the fishes of the sea, and the birds of the heavens, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep upon the earth, and all the men that are on the face of the earth shall shake at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown down, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground. 21 And I will call for a sword against him unto all my mountains, saith the Lord Jehovah: every man's sword shall be against his brother. 22 And with pestilence and with blood will I enter into judgment with him; and I will rain upon him, and upon his hordes, and upon the many peoples that are with him, and overflowing shower, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone. 23 And I will magnify myself, and sanctify myself, and I will make myself known in the eyes of many nations; and they shall know that I am Jehovah.
39 And thou, son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal: 2 I will turn thee about, and lead thee on, and will cause thee to come up from the uttermost parts of the north; and I will bring thee upon the mountains of Israel; 3 and I will smite thy bow out of thy left hand, and cause thine arrows to fall out of thy right hand. 4 Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel, thou, and all thy hordes, and the peoples that are with thee: I will give thee unto the ravenous birds of every sort, and to the beasts of the field to be devoured. 5 Thou shalt fall upon the open field; for I have spoken it, saith the Lord Jehovah. 6 And I will send a fire on Magog, and on them that dwell securely in the isles; and they shall know that I am Jehovah. 7 And my holy name will I make known in the midst of my people Israel; neither will I suffer my holy name to be profaned anymore: and the nations shall know that I am Jehovah, the Holy One in Israel. 8 Behold, it cometh, and it shall be done, saith the Lord Jehovah; this is the day whereof I have spoken. 9 And they that dwell in the cities of Israel shall go forth, and shall make fires of the weapons and burn them, both the shields and the bucklers, the bows and the arrows, and the handstaves, and the spears, and they shall make fires of them seven years; 10 so that they shall take no wood out of the field, neither cut down any of the forests; for they shall make fires of the weapons; and they shall plunder those that plundered them, and rob those that robbed them, saith the Lord Jehovah.
11 And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will give unto Gog a place for burial in Israel, the valley of them that pass through on the east of the sea; and it shall stop them that pass through: and there shall they bury Gog and all his multitude; and they shall call it the valley of Hamon-Gog. 12 And seven months shall the house of Israel be burying them, that they may cleanse the land. 13 Yea, all the people of the land shall bury them; and it shall be to them a renown in the day that I shall be glorified, saith the Lord Jehovah. 14 And they shall set apart men of continual employment, that shall pass through the land and, with them that pass through, those that bury them that remain upon the face of the land, to cleanse it: after the end of seven months shall they search. 15 And they that pass through the land shall pass through; and when they seeth a man's bone, then shall he set up a sign by it, till the buriers have buried it in the valley of Hamon-gog. 16 And Hamonah shall also be the name of a city. Thus shall they cleanse the land.
17 And thou, son of man, thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Speak unto the birds of every sort, and to every beast of the field, Assemble yourselves, and come: gather yourselves on every side to my sacrifice that I do sacrifice for you, even a great sacrifice on the mountains of Israel, that ye may eat flesh and drink blood. 18 Ye shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth, of rams, of lambs, and of goats, of bullocks, all of them fatlings of Bashan. 19 And ye shall eat fat till ye be full, and drink blood till ye be drunken, of my sacrifice which I have sacrificed for you. 20 And ye shall be filled at my table with horses and chariots, with mighty men, and with all men of war, saith the Lord Jehovah.
21 And I will set my glory among the nations; and all the nations shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid upon them. 22 So the house of Israel shall know that I am Jehovah their God, from that day and forward. 23 And the nations shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity; because they trespassed against me, and I hid my face from them: so I gave them into the hand of their adversaries, and they fell all of them by the sword. 24 According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions did I unto them; and I hid my face from them.
25 Therefore saith the Lord Jehovah: Now will I bring back the captivity of Jacob, and have mercy upon the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for my holy name. 26 And they shall bear their shame, and all their trespasses whereby they have trespassed against me, when they shall dwell securely in their land, and none shall make them afraid; 27 when I have brought them back from the peoples, and gathered them out of their enemies' lands, and am sanctified in them in the sight of many nations. 28 And they shall know that I am Jehovah their God, in that I caused them to go into captivity among the nations, and have gathered them into their own land; and I will leave none of them anymore there; 29 neither will I hide my face any more from them; for I have poured out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord Jehovah.
[In order that the reader may receive the greatest possible amount of good from this study, he should reread the Scripture passage which has just been quoted. The only way to get the content in any passage of Scripture is to become familiar with the exact wording of every statement. If, therefore, the reader has an accurate knowledge of the facts set forth in these chapters at the outset of this study, he will get far more than he can possibly acquire otherwise.]
A CAREFUL examination of these chapters reveals the fact that there are two groups of nations described in addition to the children of Israel. Hence in these chapters, we shall examine all the evidence and attempt to identify these peoples.
II. THE NORTHEAST CONFEDERACY
In Ezekiel 38:1-6 we read of what might properly be termed "The Northeastern Confederacy." This title may be somewhat new to the reader, but it seems to be more accurate than the usual designation, which is "The Great Northern Confederacy." The reason for this statement is that the nations which are mentioned occupy the land which forms a semicircle around Palestine. Although the title, "The Northeastern Confederacy," is not literally accurate, it is sufficiently definite for the countries mentioned in the prediction, since all but two of them lie to the north and east of Palestine. The two exceptions are Ethiopia and Put, the latter of which is usually identified as Somaliland, that is north and east of Ethiopia.
As we attempt to identify and to locate the nations mentioned in this prophecy, let us always bear in mind the fact that the past, present, and future are one eternal present with the Lord, and that, if the prediction was not fulfilled in the past, it will yet be carried out literally.
The proper approach to the study of the nations given in this prophecy is an examination of Genesis 10:1-7. A glance at these verses shows that the peoples mentioned here are the descendants of Japheth, with the exception of Cush and Put. In his prediction concerning Tyre, Ezekiel spoke of several of these nations and of their having commercial relations with her as the seaport of the world at that time.
Who is Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal? This question has been a matter of great debate, and much confusion and uncertainty have arisen as a consequence. The late Doctor T. G. Pinches, in the article "Rosh" in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, gives us the following information.
"The identification of Rosh is not without its difficulties. Gesenius regarded it as indicating the Russians, who are mentioned in Byzantine writers of the 10th cent. Under the name of Rhos. He adds that they are also noticed by Ibn Fosslan (same period), under the name of Rus, a people dwelling on the river Rha (Volga). Apart from the improbability that the dominion of Gog extended to this district, it would be needful to know at what date the Rus of the Volga arrived there.
"Notwithstanding objections on account of its eastern position, in all probability Fried. Delitzsch's identification of Rosh with the mat Rasi, 'Land of Rash' of the Assyr. inscriptions, is the best. Sargon of Assyria (c 710 B.C.) conquered the counties 'from the land of Rasu on the border of Elam as far as the river of Egypt,' and this country is further described in his Khorsabad Inscription, 18, as 'the land of Rasu, of the boundary of Elam, which is beside the Tigris.' Assyria having disappeared from among the nations when Ezekiel wrote his prophecies, Babylonia was the only power from which Gog of the land of Magog' would have had to reckon, but it may be doubted whether the Bab. king would have allowed him to exercise power in the district of Rasu, except as a very faithful vassal. It may here be noted that the Heb. spelling of Rosh presupposes an earlier pronunciation as Rash, a form agreeing closely with that used by the Assyrians. See Fried. Delitzsch, Wo lag das Paradies? 325."
According to Dr Pinches, Fried. Delitzsch was the one who identified the subject of Ezekiel's prophecy as "the land of Rasu on the border of Elam." Although there was such a country or province bordering on Elam, as is evident from the clay tablets unearthed, testimony of which led this noted archaeologist to identify this historic country with the subject of Ezekiel's prophecy, the monumental evidence is not conclusive and does not justify such an identification; in fact, such an interpretation is impossible. The prophet stated that this prince and his land are in the uttermost parts of the north--north from Babylonia, where Ezekiel was when he issued the prophecy, and Palestine, his native home. (See 38:15 to 39:2). The country which meets the conditions of these statements can be none other than Russia, because she occupies the country which is north of both Babylonia and Palestine.
Gog, the prince addressed, is of the land of Magog and is the prince of "Rosh, Meshsech, and Tubal." The great Hebraic scholar, Gesenius, identified Rosh as the modern Russia; Meshech as Moscow; and Tubal as Tobolsk. He saw in the Hebrew words the phonetic equivalent of these modern names in the Russian tongue. Since it is evident from Ezekiel 38:1-39:2 that the country of Gog is in the uttermost parts of the north, there can be little doubt concerning Gesenius's identification of these cities.
The next in the list of those allied with Russia is Persia. Ezekiel lived in the time of the Babylonian supremacy. At its overthrow the Medo-Persian Empire became the ruling power of the day. It, in turn, was succeeded by the Greek kingdom, which later was overthrown and swallowed up by imperialistic Rome. Notwithstanding the fact that Medo-Persia went down as a world power, this kingdom in its contracted and weakened form has continued through the centuries and has persisted even to the present time. In our day she is known as Iran.
The third name associated with Russia is Cush. According to Genesis 10:6, Cush is listed as the first son of Ham. This name is mentioned in Ezekiel 30:4,5, but is there rendered Ethiopia. The same word in the original appears in both passages. In Ezekiel 38:5 it should have been translated Ethiopia, the same as in 30:4,5. This fact leaves little doubt but that these verses refer to the country which is known today as Ethiopia in East Africa.
Put is the next nation appearing in this list. Put, the father of the people inhabiting the country called by that name, was the third son of Ham as is indicated in Genesis 10:6. The authorized version of the Scriptures translates this Libya. This rendering is indeed faulty, since grave doubt exists with reference to it. A person cannot be absolutely dogmatic on this point, since the preponderance of evidence seems to favor one's identifying this country as Somaliland east and north of Ethiopia.
Gomer is next mentioned in the prophecy. According to Genesis 10:2,3 Gomer was the oldest son of Japheth and was the father of Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah. The same representation appears in I Chron. 1:5,6. Gomer has been identified as modern Germany. The evidence seems to favor this interpretation.
Togarmah is the last one given in this company of nations. As seen in the preceding paragraph, Gomer was the father of Togarmah. By some scholars Togarmah has been identified as modern Armenia, which has been swallowed up by both Russia and Turkey.
In addition to the groups that are mentioned by name there are numbers of others who are included in the expression, "and all his hordes." These multitudes are mentioned as "many peoples with thee." This expression possibly refers to other groups of smaller nations which become allied more or less closely with the countries mentioned. Of course, it refers to the multitude of the peoples, whose armies will be very large.
A glance at this prophecy shows that Gog, the prince of Russia, plays the leading part in this great dramatic action. Ever since the rise of Hitlerism in Germany, there has been an outward antagonism between Russia and Germany. Many students, seeing this prediction, recognizing that it foretells a treaty between these countries, and knowing of the intense antagonism between them, could not see how this forecast could be fulfilled. On the other hand, those students who are thoroughly convinced that every prediction of God's Word will be fulfilled literally have insisted (and still do) that eventually this hostile attitude, whether real or assumed, would vanish, an approach would be made, and a treaty would be concluded.
Suddenly, as overnight, the entire world was amazed by the announcement coming from Moscow that a treaty of nonaggression had been signed between Russia and Germany. This epoch-making event was proclaimed to the world the latter part of the summer. These initial steps up to the present moment have been followed at intervals by successive advances. At this stage of the development (January 1940), no one knows to what extent the cooperation between these two nations has gone. It would be a matter of pure speculation for one to attempt to say. Though the relationship between Russia and Germany may not have progressed to the extent contemplated in Ezekiel's prediction, and though there should be an apparent reversal of the present development, we may be certain that, since the Word of God will be fulfilled literally, the agreement and cooperation foretold in this passage will eventually take place. It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one word which God has spoken to fail of realization.
From Ezekiel's prophetic declaration, it is evident that Russia plays the principle part in this great international drama. The head of this people is said to be "a guard unto them," or, as the marginal reading renders the word, a "commander." From this utterance it is evident that Russia will be the leader in this coalition of nations, and that Germany will be a secondary power. That is exactly what has occurred even during this short period of collaboration between these great countries. At the present time it is recognized generally that Germany is now playing a secondary role. In the terms of the proverbial saying, Russia, in the Polish campaign, used Germany to pull her chestnuts out of the fire. The latter did the fighting while the former stepped in and took the spoils. Whether or not the present state of affairs will continue until this prediction is completely fulfilled we do not know, but we are confident that, when the time comes for the fulfillment of this passage, God will make good every statement included in this oracle.
There must be a shifting of the international scene and a realignment of certain nations in order that this prediction may be fulfilled. For instance, Turkey is bound to France and Great Britain by her present treaty obligations. This accord was brought about in order to check Germany in her drive toward the East and to counteract the march of Russia into Europe, especially in the Balkan States. Persia also is tied more or less closely to Great Britain by mutual interests and treaties. On the other hand, Ethiopia has been annexed to Italy. This was accomplished at the end of the Italo-Ethiopian war. While the entire country has not, according to reports, been conquered--only the principle cities--for all practical purposes one must admit that Ethiopia is part of the Italian Empire. At the present time there is great antagonism between Italy--deeply religious--on the one hand and Russia--the hotbed of atheism--on the other. In order that the prediction might be fulfilled, it appears that there must be a break between Ethiopia and Italy. If by the term Put Somaliland is indicated, there must be some readjustment of its present political status before this can be accomplished.
In our modern world we are accustomed to seeing great and mighty changes occurring overnight. The present setup of the international situation can very easily be shifted and that which is set forth in this passage be brought about. What it took centuries and even millenniums to accomplish in former generations may be brought about in a few weeks, or even a few days. We are living in a rapidly shifting world. The unexpected occurs.
Almighty God is able to shift and to direct the movement of nations in order that His purposes might be brought to pass. A glance at history shows that throughout the past the invisible, unseen hand of the Lord has ever been present, directing the movement of all nations. God has never abdicated His throne in favor of anyone; neither will He do this. Satan, though very powerful, is subject to the command of the Almighty; he cannot do anything without first securing permission from Him as his Overlord and Master. Whenever the former is allowed to do a certain thing, limitations are always placed upon him. As proof of this, study the case of Job. Satan had to ask permission of God to tempt His faithful servant. When this concession was granted, certain restrictions and limitations were placed upon Satan, beyond which he could not go. What is true in this case is also correct in others. The Lord Omnipotent reigns.
Jehovah bringeth the counsel of the nations to nought;
He maketh the thoughts of the peoples to be of no effect.
The counsel of Jehovah standeth fast forever,
The thoughts of his heart to all generations (Ps. 33:10,11).
As we shall see later, it is God's plan to bring this confederation of nations into Palestine in order that His glory might be manifest to the Chosen People especially and that His purposes might be forwarded. We may expect, therefore, this development, as here foreseen, to come to pass or to spring into materialization at the proper time.
III. THE WESTERN DEMOCRACIES
Opposed to this Northeastern Confederacy is a group of nations which might properly be termed "The Western Democracies." Yet this designation is not accurate in every particular, because it consists of "Sheba, Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof." Who are Sheba and Dedan? According to Genesis 10:7, Raamah the son of Cush was the father of Sheba and Dedan. There were two other brothers bearing these names who were the sons of Jokshan, a son of Abraham by Keturah, his second wife (Gen. 25:3). From the historical testimony which has been brought to light, it appears that there were two tribes by these names in both the south of Arabia and in the northwestern section of that country. Some have seen a contradiction in the evidence. This is not a necessary conclusion at all. The sons of Raamah were Hamites. In Genesis 10:6,7 we see the sons and grandsons of Ham. The sons of Cush inhabited the country now known as Ethiopia. His younger brother was the ancestor of the Egyptians (Mizraim). Put's descendants evidently inhabited the country of Somaliland; and the posterity of Canaan, the land of Palestine. Some of Cush's descendants would naturally settle in southwestern Arabia.IV. ISRAEL IN THE LAND OF THE FATHERS
On the other hand, Sheba and Dedan, the grandsons of Abraham, normally would settle in the country of their nativity or thereabouts. Abraham journeyed from Ur of the Chaldees to Syria and finally, when his father died, entered Canaan. Jacob in fleeing from the wrath of his brother Esau went to Laban his uncle in Syria. It is altogether possible, and quite probable, that Sheba and Dedan would settle in the country with which their ancestors had had such close connections.
In view of the facts stated in the last two paragraphs it is quite likely that the evidence found in modern Syria for the Sheba and Dedan communities in northwestern Arabia must relate to the descendants of Abraham by Keturah. On the other hand, Sheba and Dedan, the descendants of Ham through Raamah, would be those who settled in the countries south of Edom in the land bordering on the Red Sea, which is now under English control (1940).
To what does the expression "the merchants of Tarshish" refer? Some scholars have thought that Tarshish was an ancient name for Spain whereas others see in it a reference to England. When all the historical statements are examined thoroughly, it seems that the evidence is in favor of identifying Tarshish as England. This conclusion is confirmed by statements which speak of the ships of Tarshish in a number of prophetic utterances. Tarshish, therefore, appears to be the leading maritime power in the end of the age. England has held for decades and still retains the balance of sea power. We are thus led to conclude that Tarshish of this passage in all probability refers to England.
But who are "the young lions thereof"? Since we are to take the common sense meaning of every passage if it makes good sense, we will apply this principle to the present case. These young lions in connection with Sheba, Dedan, and Tarshish issue a protest in regard to the invasion of Palestine by the hosts of the Northeastern Confederacy. Lions do not talk. This fact makes it evident that the expression is not to be taken literally. What, therefore, is its symbolic meaning? A glance at Daniel 7 shows that a beast when used symbolically always indicates a king or his kingdom. In this vision Daniel saw four beasts emerging from the troubled waters of the sea, but did not realize the significance of the things disclosed to him. The angel, therefore, came and interpreted the meaning of the revelation, saying "These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, that shall arise out of the earth" (Dan. 7:17). According to the 23rd verse of this same chapter the fourth beast is "a fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all the kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces." According to these statements a beast when used symbolically signifies a civil government. Since it is evident from the context of Ezekiel 38:13 that the young lions are used symbolically, we know that they refer to nations which will be working in close conjunction with Great Britain. What countries can, therefore, be indicated by this prophecy? The answer in all probability is that the democracies of the Western World are meant. This, of course, includes the United States of America, since she developed out of English colonization in the New World. Of course, all of those nations that are included in the British Empire or the Commonwealth of Nations are referred to in this passage. It is needless to say that it embraces all those countries which are more or less closely allied with England.
From the facts which we have already noted, the nations foreseen by the prophet in this vision will be divided into two great groups. For want of better terms, we designate them, because of their positions geographically, as the Great Northeastern Confederacy and the Western Democracies.
"After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, that is gathered out of many peoples, 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" (Ezek. 38:8).
The mountains of Israel referred to in this quotation are none other than the hills of the land of Palestine. According to the last clause of verse 12 of this chapter, Palestine is "the navel" or the middle of the earth. The Lord selected this country as the home for His People because of its pivotal position with reference to the civilization of the ancient world and because of the strategic location which it will have in the end of the age as well as in the Millennium. He, therefore, deeded it to His Chosen People in perpetuity. This is seen in Deuteronomy 32:8. Israel, therefore, was placed upon this, "the bridge of the nations," in order that she might hold aloft the torch of God's Revelation to the heathen nations as they passed to and fro through the Land in their commercial relations and military operations. Across its borders many of the great conquerors of antiquity led their mighty armies. Its soil from time to time has been drenched with the lifeblood of the dying. The caravans, the silent ships of the desert, have, from times immemorial, borne the rich treasures of the ancient empires along its highways to the marts of the world. Palestine therefore, has been and will continue to be the most important of all lands. It will yet be the stage upon which the final scene of the world drama will be enacted.
What is meant by the statement: "In the latter days thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword"? This prophecy has been variously interpreted. Light is thrown upon it by the clause which follows: "that is gathered out of many peoples." The clauses, "that is brought back" and "that is gathered out," modify the word land. In what sense, therefore, can the country be said to be brought back from the sword? The literal land cannot in any way be spoken of as being brought back. It is possible that this expression might mean that the country has been delivered from the sword; that is, been granted cessation from hostile military operations. While such a meaning is a possible one, it is altogether highly improbable. The parallel clause, "that is gathered out of many people," seems to indicate what is meant; namely, that the peoples who have been subjected to the sword in other nations have been brought back into their own land. In this event, the language is an illustration of metonymy or synecdoche. In all probability this is the correct signification. The people are spoken of in terms of the country which belongs to them.
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