Dr Chaim Weizmann, the first president of Israel stated famously, “The Jewish nation is a ghost nation. Only the God of Israel has kept the Jewish people alive.”[i] Insightfully, David Ben Gurion, the first prime minister in Israel noted, “Ezekiel 37 has been fulfilled, and the nation Israel is hearing the footsteps of Messiah”.[ii]
Much of Ezekiel 37 has been fulfilled, though there is more to come particularly with regard to the spiritual renewal of the nation. This key prophecy in Ezekiel 38 is likely the next major prophetic event to be fulfilled and possibly even in our lifetime. Ezekiel spoke concerning what will occur in the latter years whereby Russia will lead a confederacy of nations against Israel. The Lord will sovereignly bring judgement on Israel’s oppressors and the consequences will be so emphatic that the Lord will be known in the eyes of many nations.
Great care must be taken not to assume that just because some events look as though they might happen imminently that one does not state that certain leaders or individuals are the ones mentioned in Ezekiel until all the events unfold and all becomes clear. Nonetheless in view of the regathering of the Jewish people to their homeland and the precise conditions now possible for these events to occur, this demonstrates the reliability of Scripture and the need to turn to and trust in the Lord.
The Confederacy of Nations
Establishing the exact identity of the antagonist and their allies has been a matter of debate over the centuries. Although the linguistic evidence is not conclusive, ethnic, geographic and contextual evidence affirms that the chief antagonist is Russia. [iii]We must avoid fanciful linguistic speculation merely because some names sound or appear similar today compared with the words Ezekiel used then. So firstly we need to familiarise ourselves with the nations descended from Noah in Genesis 10 to acquire a reliable description of who is involved.
Magog was a son of Japheth mentioned in Genesis 10:2 as were Tubal and Meshech in Genesis 10:3. It is tempting to assume that Tubal and Meshech are Tobolsk and Moscow since they look etymologically similar, though that is by no means conclusive. They are more likely situated in modern day Turkey. Gomer was also a son of Japheth (Genesis 10:2) and Togarmah was himself a son of Gomer though it is difficult to state exactly where they are located today.
More essentially, Ezekiel 38:6, 15; 39:2 describe the aggressor as coming from the far north. We must remember that the direction is written with Israel in mind which is the centre of the world. Russia and especially Moscow is directly north of Israel and fits the description of being at the far north. Russia will join forces with additional allies from the east including (Persia=Iran) the south (Cush=Sudan, southern Egypt and Northern Ethiopia) and the west (Put=Libya).[iv]
The lord will be against Gog from Magog and will gather and lead them with hooks in their jaws. In former times and in relation to Israel, the Lord described Assyria as the rod of His anger (Isaiah 10:5) Nebuchadnezzar from Babylon as His servant (Jeremiah 27:6), Cyrus of the Medes and Persians as His shepherd whose right hand I have held (Isaiah 44:28-45:1) and during the Maccabean revolt we read “For I have bent Judah my bow, fitted the bow with Ephraim and raised up your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece and made you like the sword of a mighty man” (Zechariah 9:13).
Israel’s foes will ascend, coming like a storm, covering the land like a cloud with troops and the troops of many peoples with them. Again we must bear in mind the language Ezekiel uses to explain future times well beyond his era. This may well describe an airborne invasion and we should not be overly concerned with the description of what appears to be primitive methods of warfare. Bows and arrows may aptly refer to launching devices and missiles.[v]
In Ezekiel 38:10 thoughts will arise and an evil plan will be made. This is nothing new considering the history of antisemitism in Russia involving the pogroms leading to Jewish people fleeing to the United States and Israel. Fiddler on the Roof is a much- loved production with clever humour throughout, though it was set in grim times when Jewish people in that locality faced persistent persecution. As I write, Russia have invaded Ukraine and Ukrainian Jews have been making Aliyah.
Israel in this passage is mentioned as being a land of unwalled villages without bars or gates, as a peaceful people who dwell safely. It must be borne in mind that city walls were essential for protection in previous eras but with more modern military capabilities this is no longer the case. The late Grant Jeffrey, a well-respected eschatology expert noted that during Ezekiel’s time and until 1900 virtually all of the cities and villages in the Middle East had walls for defence.[vi] This also means that it is unlikely that this event will occur during the tribulation since that will be a time characterised by terrible persecution and unsafety.
We are reminded in Ezekiel 38:17 that the Lord would bring Israel’s aggressors against them. What will be the means of Israel’s deliverance? Even in recent history Israel survived immediate attacks as a fledgling nation despite seemingly inadequate resources. For the discerning and keen student of history her preservation is nothing short of a miracle. For the sceptic it is inexplicable. Though Israel is a small nation roughly the size of Wales, she now has acquired within two generations an impressive and worldwide respected army, punching well above her weight and then some. Yet in this instance neither her intelligence or might is the deciding factor, nor is support from her few yet trusted allies.
Instead there will be a great earthquake in Israel and it appears there will be confusion amongst her foes as every man’s sword will be against his brother, which is somehow reminiscent of Gideon’s victory in Judges 7:22. The Lord will add to that both pestilence and bloodshed, flooding rain, great hailstones, fire and brimstone. These are what we would associate with biblical plagues and it will be obvious that there has been supernatural intervention.
In doing this the Lord will be both magnified and sanctified and recognised by many nations as they will know that He is the Lord. Some worship false gods and others deny the existence of the Creator Himself. The outcome will be incomprehensible through purely rational explanation. This will demonstrate that the Lord declares the end from the beginning and performs mighty acts and that the Scriptures are as relevant and timeless now as they were then. Ultimately this will cause Israel to trust in her Redeemer and the nations to know that I am the Lord.
[i] J. Vernon McGee Ezekiel Thru The Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson, 1991; Nashville), p196
[ii] Ibid, 196
[iii] Merrill Unger Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament (AMG, 2002; Chattanooga), p1577
[iv] John Walvoord & Roy Zuck The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Victor Books, 1989; USA), p1301
[v] S. Maxwell Coder cited in William Macdonald Believer’s Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson, 1995; Nashville), p1064
[vi] Grant R. Jeffrey Armageddon Appointment with Destiny (Frontier Research Publications, 1988; Toronto), p103