A coming invasion: Ezekiel 38-39

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Today’s reading: Ezekiel 37-39.

Having predicted the completed destruction of Jerusalem, and the near-term destruction of Israel’s neighbors, Ezekiel turns his focus to some unknown future when the Jews live in peace and safety in their homeland. Suddenly a vast army of invaders comes from the north to attack and plunder their land.

“Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say to Gog: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: In that day, when my people Israel are living in safety, will you not take notice of it?  You will come from your place in the far north, you and many nations with you, all of them riding on horses, a great horde, a mighty army.  You will advance against my people Israel like a cloud that covers the land. Ezekiel 38:14-16

There are many speculations about the origin and timing of this invasion. Instead of looking at things we can’t know with certainty, let’s list the clear facts about the attack.

  • The invaders attack when the Jews are reunited and living again in Israel.
  • The invaders come from the north, a great number, with armor, composed of many nations.
  • The invasion occurs in the last days.
  • The invaders are stopped when God intervenes and in a clear expression of his power destroys them.
  • God’s visible display of his might and glory convinces many nations that he is the LORD.

The results of the invaders’ destruction are dramatic:

  • Their abandoned weapons will provide Israel with fuel for seven years.
  • Burial teams will work for seven months to cover all the dead bodies.
  • The house of Israel knows for certain that the LORD is their God.

Many have speculated about the origin of the invaders, most commonly implicating Russia, but this has much to do with the geopolitical standings of the last 70 years and little to do with the Bible text. In other words, Russia is the current great power to the north of Israel, so Russia must be the attacker. But Rosh in the text refers to chief or head rather than Russia, and the far north of Ezekiel’s time was modern-day Turkey. Whoever the invaders are, their attack will end when God clearly destroys them, and as a result of their destruction the whole nation of Israel will believe in the LORD as God.

Unlike the Egyptians, Assyrians, and Babylonians, with whom Judah had frequent contact, the peoples in the distant north were shrouded in mystery. The reports of these mysterious people groups that filtered down spoke of wild peoples, brutal and barbaric. This combination of mystery and brutality made Gog and his confederates perfect symbols of the archetypal enemy, rising against God and his people. – Block

They tell, if interpreted literally, of a coming northern confederacy of nations about the Black and Caspian seas with Persia and North Africa, who will invade the promised land after Israel’s restoration to it. – Feinberg

Image by The U.S. Army  on Flickr, CC by 2.0

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