THE EVENTS OF THE PROPHECY
I. THE INVASION OF PALESTINE
A CASUAL glance at this prophecy of Ezekiel shows conclusively that he foresaw and invasion of Palestine by the forces of the countries mentioned, the identification of which we have seen in the preceding chapter. The ancient synagogue interpreted this passage as a reference to the land of the peoples living north of Palestine. Modern commentators among the Gentiles, likewise, see in these chapters an invasion of Palestine by the same forces. Since there can be no dispute about the import of the prediction thus far, we must pass on to consider the objectives of the nations of the Northeastern Confederacy.
A. The objective
"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 village; 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" (Ezek. 38:10-12).
From this quotation it is quite evident that the supreme motive leading to this invasion is a desire to acquire the wealth of the Jews who have gathered back in the land. Throughout history we see that from time to time the more powerful nations have sought quarrels with smaller ones in order to have an excuse for invading their territories and seizing their goods. Unfortunately, this practice has never ceased. It seems to be in evidence in various parts of the world today.
At the present time what wealth is there in Palestine--a very small country 150 miles long with an average breadth of 50 miles, which has been devastated with incessant wars throughout the centuries? On account of unscientific methods of agriculture the land has become exhausted, more or less, and is in a rundown condition. Prior to the recent influx of Jews there was little commerce and industry. There was nothing known that could prove to be such a powerful magnet. This passage presupposes that there is great wealth in the land sufficient to induce these mighty nations to take up arms and to send a force of occupation there in order to seize the country and its wealth.
During my six months' stay in the land upon my two visits, I have literally traveled from Dan to Beersheba, going the length and breadth of the country. In addition to this, I have traveled throughout Transjordan, going as far as Aqaba at the northern end of the gulf of the same name. Turning north I have gone throughout Gilead, the Hauran district, and into Jebel Druze Mountains. I have gone to Damascus, Baalbek, Beirut, Tripoli, and the Cedars of Lebanon. Having friends among the Jews and Arabs, I have had the peculiar privilege of coming in firsthand contact with the conditions which exist throughout the land.
In 1937 the Jews had purchased 7 per cent of the total acreage of Palestine. This information was procured at the Zionistic Headquarters in Jerusalem. The 93 per cent of the country is, therefore, in the hands of the Arabs and foreigners. The Fellahin, the villagers, cultivate the land around their little towns. The Bedouins raise sheep, cattle, camels, and donkeys. Certain of the Arabic population in the vicinity of Jaffa especially are engaged in the citrus fruit industry.
According to reports which I received when I was there at the beginning of 1939, the Jews have something like 250 colonies scattered throughout the land. In the coastal plain the agricultural population is engaged largely in the citrus fruit industry, which has been improved very greatly since the Jews began returning to the land. They also grow fruits of all varieties and all kinds of vegetables suitable to that climate. In the great Plain of Esdraelon they have many flourishing colonies and settlements engaged in agricultural pursuits. They also have some in the Jordan valley just south of the Sea of Galilee. About 1936 the Jewish National fund purchased 57,000 dunams of land in the Huleh district, north of the Sea of Galilee. Their purpose is to drain these swamps and to establish colonies in this section of the country. There are a few settlements in the mountainous regions, but they are small and lack the opportunities of those established in the great plains of Sharon and Esdraelon. Where the Jew has settled, by the aid of science and a determination to restore the land, he has wrought marvels.
According to reports which I heard in the Land, Palestine exported around 12,000,000 cases of oranges during 1939. This is the total sum, grown and shipped by both Jews and Arabs.
In Tel Aviv and surrounding country and in Haifa and community, the Jews have established factories making various commodities. Thus has begun, in a limited way, the production of goods for foreign commerce. Before the troubles in 1936, the Jewish communities were rapidly moving forward in their industrial development. Though progress along this line has been retarded for the last three years, industry has nevertheless forged forward under serious and great handicaps and has made marked advance.
All manufactured goods, fruits, and vegetables exported from the land are as nothing in comparison with the mineral wealth of the Dead Sea. Throughout the centuries, dating back at least to the days of Abraham and Lot, God has been pouring into that mysterious sea a fabulous amount of wealth in the form of mineral salts. All travelers have observed that life, both animal and vegetable, is not possible in its briny water. So far as I know, no one ever attempted to discover its mineral content until the Jews began their return to the Land. The analysis shows that the value of the chemicals in the Dead Sea is $1,270,000,000,000. It has been stated that this staggering sum is equal to the combined wealth of America, Great Britain, France, Germany, and Italy. Many of the most valuable minerals used in industries of today are to be found there in abundance. Likewise those chemicals that are vital to the manufacturing of war materials are stored up there, awaiting the coming of those who worship the god of war.
To the Palestine Potash, Ltd., the concession for extracting these minerals from the Dead Sea has been granted for a period of 99 years. It has a very large plant at the northwest end of the Sea and likewise another one at the southwestern corner--near Jebel Usdum. The minerals from the latter plant are brought by boat to the main works at the northern end. Caravans of large modern trucks make two trips daily from Jerusalem to the dead Sea hauling tens of thousands of tons monthly from this inexhaustible supply of vital minerals.
The method adopted by this company for obtaining these minerals from the water is the simplest and least expensive. In fact, 1500 acres have been made into pans or vats by digging three or four feet into the hard clay, which is characteristic of this section of the plain. The water is pumped from a certain depth out of the Sea into vats on the highest ground of the plain west of the plant. The intense heat at this low level, which is 1292 feet below the Mediterranean, causes rapid evaporation. In order to hasten this natural process, certain chemicals are put into the water, which accelerates it by 40 per cent. Since the chemical content of the water is about 22 per cent, as evaporation continues, the water left, of course, increases in specific gravity. At a certain point in the process it is allowed to flow from this upper level to a lower pan where evaporation continues. After a certain amount of evaporation has taken place in this pan, the solution is allowed to flow to a basin on a lower level. This work continues until the maximum evaporation has taken place. By this time the water has been conveyed to the vat nearest the chemical works. This solution is pumped out of this last pan into the plant where the final stage of the operation takes place and the chemicals appear in the form of a whitish substance like pure salt.
These chemicals are sacked and shipped to factories which separate the salts one from another and produce the marketable goods.
Nowhere else on earth is there such an inexhaustible supply of the necessary chemicals for modern life as in the Dead Sea. When the powerful nations of the Northeastern Confederacy think that they can invade the land and can have access to this fabulous wealth, they will do so. That they will do this very thing is evident from the verses quoted at the beginning of this chapter.
According to verse 13 the Western Democracies will understand why the Northeastern Confederacy has sent its armies into the land, for they ask, "Art thou come to take the spoil? Hast thou assembled thy companies to take the prey? To carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take great spoils?" The principle upon which these nations send there armies into the land is that might is right. Such will be the political philosophy of these countries. Such will be the political philosophy of these countries.
Man is free to do as he chooses. God never forces or coerces the will of anyone. It is true that in answer to believing prayer He brings all moral and spiritual forces into operation in order to influence one to choose the right and to do that which is just and correct. Nevertheless in His overruling providence He always halts at and never crosses over the threshold of the individuals personality lest He destroy such a one's will.
At the same time He providentially overrules the actions of men and causes them to do that which will promote His cause and will bring blessings to humanity. No philosopher or theologian has ever been able to harmonize the seeming contradictory theses of man's freedom and God's sovereignty. Nevertheless, the Scriptures assert both. Though we, while we are in the flesh, may never be able to explain satisfactorily these two great fundamental teachings of the Christian faith, when we see and know fully as we are known, we shall see how God can leave man free and yet overrule everything which he does and make it contribute to the forwarding of His divine plans and purposes.
As we have seen, Gog with all of his confederates will go into Palestine for the one purpose of taking the spoil, ignoring human rights. Nevertheless we know that God overrules and actually brings these aggressors into the Land. In order that we might see this point most unmistakably, let us read Ezekiel 38:14-16:
"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.
Let the reader note the latter part of verse 16: "It shall come to pass in the latter days, that I will bring thee (Gog with his forces) against my land (Palestine), that the nations may know me, when I am sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes." Here God affirms that it is He who brings Gog and his hordes against Palestine. About this position there can be no question--for the one who is willing to let the Bible deliver its message.
A case similar to this one may be seen in Isaiah 10:5-19. A few verses from this quotation will demonstrate this principle:
"Ho Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, the staff in whose hand is mine indignation! 6 I will send him against a profane nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. 7 Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so; but it is in his heart to destroy, and to cut off nations not a few ... 12 Wherefore it shall come to pass, that, when the Lord hath performed His whole work upon mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks. 13 For he hath said, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I have understanding: and I have removed the bounds of the peoples, and have robbed their treasures, and like a valiant man I have brought down them that sit on thrones: 14 and my hand hath found as a nest the riches of the peoples; and as one gathereth eggs that are forsaken, have I gathered all the earth: and there was none that moved the wing, or that opened the mouth, or chirped" (Isa. 10:5-7,12-14).
The Assyrian here addressed is doubtless Sennacherib. Note the fact that God spoke of him thus: "the rod of mine anger, the staff in whose hand is mine indignation!" Moreover, the Almighty declared that He would send this proud Assyrian against a profane nation, which is none other than Israel. God would send him to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. Howbeit the Assyrian had no intention or thought of carrying out the divine will: Neither did it enter his heart that he was simply a tool in the hands of God Almighty. On the contrary, it was in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few. Israel had sinned and had to be punished. The Lord used this heathen king and his forces in order to chastise His disobedient people. According to this prediction when God had used this proud monarch to carry out His purpose, He would then punish him. This is seen in verse 12 of the quotation given above.
In the same manner God used the Pharaoh of old when Israel was in Egyptian bondage. In a similar way He caused Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to execute His will regarding Israel. On a higher plane, however, He used Cyrus, king of Persia, who, not conscious of doing the divine will, issued a decree for Israel's return to the land of the fathers after the Babylonian captivity. For the full prediction of how God used Cyrus, see Isaiah 44:24-45:13. That he did not know God is evident from 45:4: "I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me."
The object which the Lord will have in mind in bringing Gog with his associates and all of their hordes into Palestine is stated in these words: "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." From this verse we learn that God has as His object in bringing Gog with his forces into Palestine this high and holy purpose; namely, that He might be sanctified in Gog before all nations in order that they might know Him as Jehovah the Almighty. What does this prediction mean? A comparison with this prediction and verse 23 may enable us to see. "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" (Ezek. 38:23). When this verse is read in the light of its immediate context, it becomes apparent that God will be, in the thinking of the peoples of earth, set apart from all others and will be recognized as Jehovah, the Supreme Being. A thought similar to this one is found in Ezekiel 28:22: "Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I am against thee, O Sidon; and I will be glorified in the midst of thee; and they shall know that I am Jehovah, when I shall have executed judgments in her, and shall be sanctified in her."
A parallel case to Gog and his hosts and the judgment which will fall upon them is to be found in that which came upon Pharaoh and his hosts. Read Exodus 9:13-16.
"And Jehovah said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me. 14 For I will this time send all my plagues upon thy heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth. 15 For now I had put forth my hand, and smitten thee and thy people with pestilence, and thou hadest been cut off from the earth: 16 but in very deed for this cause have I made thee to stand, to show thee my power, and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth."
God gave Pharaoh power and authority, strengthened by material prosperity and wealth. In fact, he was the mightiest sovereign of his day. The Omniscient Creator knew from the beginning the type of character he was; He, therefore, brought him to the throne that He might demonstrate in his case His mighty power by overthrowing him. The Lord, therefore, drowned the Egyptian forces in the Red Sea, while Israel enjoyed a marvelous deliverance. As a consequence, the report was noised abroad throughout the neighboring countries that the God of the Hebrews was the supreme God of heaven and earth. Hence fear and consternation gripped all alike. In this sense God was sanctified in Pharaoh. In a similar manner, He, as Ezekiel 38:16 declares, will be sanctified by Gog and his hosts. The Lord makes even the wickedness of man to Praise Him.
Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee:
The residue of wrath shalt thou gird up on thee (Psa. 76:10).
B. This Invasion Distinct from that Foretold by Joel and Daniel
As we have already noted, Ezekiel's prediction foresees and invasion by Palestine by the Northeastern Confederacy. Joel the prophet, in chapter 2 of his book, foretold the invasion of Palestine by a northern army. Before the coming of this mighty host the land of Palestine is as "the garden of Eden" (Joel 2:3). After that event it is like a desolate wilderness. In verses 4-11 is a vivid description of the onward march of this force. When the language is allowed to speak for itself and deliver its message without modifying it in any way, it is abundantly evident that this is a mechanized army. Only such an interpretation will meet the demands of the passage. II. THE PROTEST BY THE WESTERN DEMOCRACIES
In the following paragraph, verses 12 to 14 the prophet pleads with those of Israel who will be living at the time to turn to God, assuring them that it is not too late for them to repent. In the event they do so the Lord in lovingkindness will accept them. Following this passage, in the next paragraph, verses 15 to 17, are the words of Joel calling upon the people to proclaim a day of national prayer, fasting, and confession. Though he did not state definitely, in so many words, that they would do so, his language implies this, for in the following paragraph, verses 18 to 20, God sees that they really and truly do repent. In compassion and mercy He then has pity upon them. In answer to their cry He gives them the following promise:
"And Jehovah answered and said unto his people, Behold, I will send you grain, and new wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith; And I will no more make you a reproach among the nations; 20 but I will remove far off from you the northern army, and will drive it into a land barren and desolate, its forepart into the eastern sea, and its hinder part into the western sea; and its stench shall come up, and its ill savor shall come up, because it hath done great things" (Joel 2:19,20).
The Lord promised to remove far from them, in answer to their prayer, the northern army. This army is divided, as the prediction shows, and is removed from the country into a land barren and desolate. The forepart is driven into the eastern sea and the hinderpart into the western sea. The marginal rendering in the Revised Version of the word rendered "into" is "toward." This translation is to be preferred to the text rendering, since the promise states definitely that this great host is driven into "a land barren and desolate." This fact shows that it does not perish in the Land of Palestine as do the hordes of Gog. In the light of this fact we may assert with all boldness that Joel was speaking of an invasion entirely different from that of Ezekiel. Immediately after this promise, he foretells that the Lord will restore to Israel all that they have lost and will give them the early and latter rains, together with all blessings. This latter paragraph is a prediction of the great Millennial Age when the curse will be lifted and the glory of God will encircle the earth as the waters cover the sea.
Daniel speaks of an invasion of Palestine, which we know from the context will occur in the middle of the tribulation. In Daniel 11:36-39 appears a forecast of the willful king who is none other than the world dictator at the end time. Some have concluded that this person is a Jew. This deduction is arrived at from an inference drawn from the facts of verse 37, which states: "Neither shall he (the willful king) regard the gods of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall magnify himself above all." This is a possible inference, but not a necessary one. When this willful king thus takes a determined stand against all gods and magnifies himself above them, he promotes to honor those who acknowledge him. At that time he will divide the land of Palestine for a price. When this is done, the king of the south will contend with him. Who is the king of the south? Many Bible interpreters see in him the sovereign of Egypt, but since that country is in alliance with England, the British sovereign is supposed by many to be the one referred to. Since the evidence is not conclusive, it behooves one to be very careful and to hold his judgment in suspense, awaiting further light.
When the king of the south strikes at the world dictator, the king of the north will come like a whirlwind against him. Thus he will be besieged by two forces. At that time he enters the glorious land which is none other than Palestine. As the conflict rages, tidings from the north and east reach the dictator's ears. By force of circumstances, he pulls up stakes and leaves. The country now known as Transjordan is not invaded at that time, although Palestine west of Jordan is. The world dictator, or willful king, will have authority over Egypt, Ethiopia, and Libya, but he can not carry his banner east of the Jordan.
At that time, Michael, the archangel who stands for the Hebrew people, will champion their cause. These events will usher in the period of the greatest suffering and distress that the world has ever seen. These mighty catastrophic judgments and wonders will continue for a time, times, and a half time (Dan. 12:7). When, therefore, all the facts set forth in Daniel 11:36 to 12:13 are examined, it is evident that the invasion mentioned in this passage occurs in the middle of the 70th week of Daniel 9.
Is the invasion of Palestine, as foretold by Ezekiel, the same as that which is predicted by Daniel and Joel?
At this stage of our study, we shall have to assume that which will be proved in chapter III. The invasion foretold by Ezekiel 38 and 39 occurs before the tribulation; the one revealed by Daniel comes in the middle of it. Daniel, therefore, was speaking about an invasion different from that of Ezekiel's prophecy. But what invasion does Joel have in mind? This prophet speaks only of a northern army, whereas Ezekiel mentions a group of nations, which we have already designated as the Northeastern Confederacy. When all three passages are studied, it appears quite likely, though one may not be dogmatic on this point, that Joel was foretelling an event which occurs in the middle of the tribulation, and which is mentioned by Daniel.
There is to be a third invasion of Palestine in the end time, which will be by the nations of the world at the close of the tribulation. This fact is foretold by Zechariah 14:1-8. As I see the situation, Ezekiel foretold an invasion by the armies of the Northeastern Confederacy before the tribulation. Joel and Daniel spoke of one which will occur in the middle of the tribulation. Joel mentioned only the northern army, whereas Daniel spoke of the armies of the north and the king of the south. At that time the world dictator likewise enters the glorious Land, Palestine. This invasion is undoubtedly in the middle of the tribulation. But the third and last one is, as we have seen, to be at the end of the tribulation when the armies of the world will be gathered against Jerusalem to battle. At this time the Lord Jesus will descend from heaven and deliver His ancient and beloved people.
When the powers of the Northeastern Confederacy send their armies into Palestine, the governments of Sheba, Dedan, and Tarshish (England) together with the young lions thereof (The younger Western Democracies) issue a protest; for they say, "Art thou come to take the spoil? Hast thou assembled thy company to take the prey?" etc. The language of Ezekiel 38:13 indicates clearly that these Western Democracies send only a protest--a very mild one. It comes in the form of a question. All who have been noticing the events in Europe for the last four or five years can understand what a protest by one nation to another is. When Germany sent her troops into the Rhineland to occupy it, France and England simply sent protests. The same thing was true with reference to the conquest of Austria. Turning from Europe and looking at the Far East, we remember that the powers sent one protest after another to Japan for her warring against China. Ignoring these protests, the aggressors went forward in their campaigns. The matter, in each of these instances, seems to have been dropped after diplomatic representation was made to the government involved. Such is what the prophet Ezekiel said would occur when the Northeastern Confederacy sends its gigantic armies to seize and occupy Palestine.III. A STROKE OF CATASTROPHIC JUDGMENT
Is there a war foretold in Ezekiel 38 and 39? In answer to this question some most excellent prophetic students answer in the affirmative. Others, to the contrary, are very emphatic in their denials. Hence, consecrated Biblical students are of different opinions on this question. It behooves us to examine this prediction very carefully and ascertain the facts set forth in the text.A. The Wrath of God
The prophet, speaking for the Almighty, addresses Gog and asks him this question: "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?" (Ezek. 38:17). This historical question implies that he is the one of whom God had spoken on former occasions.
When Gog leads his forces down into Palestine against the defenseless Jews, God's wrath will be kindled, for He declares: "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" (Ezek. 38:18). No one can do an injustice to the Hebrew people or to an individual of that race, because he is a Jew, and go unpunished; for God distinctly declares: "I will curse him that curseth thee" (Gen. 12:3). Again through Zechariah the prophet, God warned men against mistreating His people, "for he that toucheth you (the Hebrew people) toucheth the apple of his eye" (Zech. 2:8). A casual glance at the history of the nations that came in contact with Israel and mistreated her reveals clearly the fact that God does avenge Himself of all who persecute the Jew. Egypt, which was the mightiest empire of the day was cast down into the dust of humiliation and reduced to the basest of all kingdoms because of her persecution of Israel. The Assyrian adopted the same attitude toward God's people. In wrath He cast that mighty and cruel empire into the oblivion of annihilation. All that remains of her ancient power and glory are the rubbish heaps of Mesopotamia and the regions round about the Tigris river. The same thing is true with reference to Babylon. In medieval times certain nations arose and persecuted the Jews. God who said, "I will curse him that curseth thee," continually watches over that warning of His word. In the past He punished every type of anti-Semitism, is still doing it today, and will continue to avenge Himself of everyone who is guilty of this unreasonable sin.
Along with the threat of punishment for all persecution of the Jews, God made the marvelous statement that He would suit a special blessing to those who will bless Abraham and his seed. The Lord is just as faithful in the fulfillment of this promise as He is in carrying out His threat against the anti-Semites. Many are the lovers of Israel who can witness truthfully to God's making this promise good in their own experience. I personally can testify that He has richly and abundantly blessed me because of my having given my life and strength in an effort to be a blessing to Israel. My life is dedicated to the task of giving the truth of the Gospel to her and in combating anti-Semitism.
The prophets and psalmists constantly looked out into the future and gave us word pictures of those nations that persecute the Jews, and that enter their land for the purpose of despoiling them and of blotting out the name of Israel from the face of the globe. In all these predictions we can see that a catastrophic judgment of God always is foretold as coming upon those who persecute Israel. In the light of these many passages, we can see and understand why it is that God says, "My wrath shall come up into my nostrils," when Gog leads his forces into Palestine to take the spoil of the Jews and to persecute them.
One should not be surprised, nor be startled, when God says that His wrath will be stirred to its depths by this invasion of Palestine. The Lord is not only a God of love, but also a God of vengeance and one who has righteous indignation every day. No one can appreciate His revelation as found in the Scriptures unless he is thoroughly conversant with His own statement of His own character, which is:
"And Jehovah passed by before him, and proclaimed, Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness and truth; 7 keeping lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; and that will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and upon the children's children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation" (Ex. 34:6, 7).
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