Therefore, thou son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal:
Verses 1-20. - In the first main division Ezekiel repeats the substance of what has already been advanced concerning the defeat of Gog (vers. 1-8), after which he strives to represent its completeness (vers. 9-20), by setting forth
(1) the immense quantity of spoil Israel should obtain from the fallen foe (vers. 9, 10).
(2) the length of time it should take Israel to bury the dead and cleanse the land from defilement (vers. 11-16, and
(3) the horrible carnage which should ensue on Gog's destruction, symbolized by a vast sacrificial feast prepared by Jehovah for the beasts and birds (vers. 17-20). Verse 1. - The chief prime of Meshech and Tubal; or, prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal (see on Ezekiel 38:2).
And I will turn thee back, and leave but the sixth part of thee, and will cause thee to come up from the north parts, and will bring thee upon the mountains of Israel:
Verse 2. - I will... leave but the sixth part of thee. The word שְׁשֵּׁאתִיך is derived either from the numeral six, שֵׁשׁ, or from the root שָׁשָׁא, the import of which is uncertain, although a cognate root in Ethiopic suggests the idea of "going on" or "proceeding" - a meaning Havernick also finds in the Hebrew. The former derivation has been followed by the Authorized Version, which renders in the margin, "I will strike thee with six plagues," or "draw thee back with a hook of six teeth," and by Hengstenberg, With whom Plumptre agrees, "1 will six thee," i.e. "afflict thee with six plagues," viz. those mentioned in Ezekiel 38:22. The latter derivation, presumably the more correct, is adopted by the LXX. (καθοδογήσω), the Vulgate (educam), the Revised Version ("I will lead thee on"), and by modern expositors generally. Hitzig and Smend approve of Ewald's translation, "I entice thee astray, and lead thee with leading, strings."
And I will smite thy bow out of thy left hand, and will cause thine arrows to fall out of thy right hand.
Verse 3. - I will smite thy bow out of thy left hand. Bows and arrows were characteristic weapons of the Scythians, whom Herodotus (4:46) styles ἱπποτοξόται (comp. Jeremiah 5:16; Jeremiah 6:23; and see note on Ezekiel 38:15).
Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel, thou, and all thy bands, and the people that is with thee: I will give thee unto the ravenous birds of every sort, and to the beasts of the field to be devoured.
Verses 4-6. - I will give thee unto ravenous birds of every sort; or, wing. The language depicts an army on the march, followed by jackals, vultures, and other birds of prey, ready to feast upon the corpses of slaughtered men (comp. Ezekiel 33:27; 1 Samuel 17:46; and Homer's 'Iliad,' 1:4, 5). In addition to destroying Cog, causing him to fall upon the mountains of Israel and upon the open field; literally, upon the face of the field, Jehovah engages to carry the fire of war and generally of devastation (cf. Ezekiel 33:22; Amos 2:2, 5; Revelation 20:29) into Cog's own land, Magog (see on Ezekiel 38:2), and among them that dwell carelessly (better, securely) in the isles; or, coast-lands (Ezekiel 27:7); i.e. not merely the merchants of Tarshish or the "isles" of the trading nations mentioned in Ezekiel 38:13, as Hengstenberg and Plumptre prefer, but, as Smend, Schroder, and Keil explain, all the distant peoples of the coast-lands from whom Gog's armies were drawn (Ezekiel 38:5, 6), and in whom were many of Gog's sympathizers.
Thou shalt fall upon the open field: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord GOD.
And I will send a fire on Magog, and among them that dwell carelessly in the isles: and they shall know that I am the LORD.
So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more: and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel.
Behold, it is come, and it is done, saith the Lord GOD; this is the day whereof I have spoken.
Verse 8. - Behold! it is come. "The words which a man might speak on he-holding his purpose accomplished are, with Ezekiel's Bold anthropomorphism, put into the mouth of Jehovah" (Plumptre).
And they that dwell in the cities of Israel shall go forth, and shall set on fire and burn the weapons, both the shields and the bucklers, the bows and the arrows, and the handstaves, and the spears, and they shall burn them with fire seven years:
Verses 9, 10 set forth as the first proof of the greatness of Gog's overthrow the immense booty in the shape of weapons of war which should be obtained by the inhabitants of the cities of Israel. So huge should be the quantity of weapons left behind by the slain, that the Israelites should burn them with fire seven years. This burning of the weapons has been explained by Havernick, on the ground that weapons of war, as incompatible with Messianic times, should be no more required (cf. Isaiah 2:4); by Ewald, as in accordance with the custom of the Hebrews (Isaiah 9:5) and other ancient peoples (Livy, 38:23; Virgil, 'AEneid,' 8:562); by Hitzig and Smend, as prompted by the consideration that Israel, for whom Jehovah had fought, should have no further need of weapons; by Schroder, as indicating that for Israel these warlike instruments should then so completely lose their power to terrify that they might be looked upon simply as so much firewood; and by Keil, as designed to annihilate the enemy and remove every trace of him. Kliefoth appears nearest the mark, in suggesting that the emphasis lies upon the length of time the burning should continue; and that this was intended, by conveying an idea of the vastness of the spoil, to represent the thoroughness of Gog's destruction and of Israel's deliverance. That the whole delineation is symbolical appears from the number of years the weapons are said to serve for fuel, viz. seven, and from the character of the weapons themselves, which, if not entirely wooden, were at least all combustible. Of the "armor" generally (נֶשֶׁק, "something joined," from a root signifying "to join") the pieces mentioned - the shields and the bucklers (see Ezekiel 38:4), the bows and arrows (see ver. 3), the hand-staves, or, javelins (margin), perhaps, as Hitzig and Smend suggest, the staff with which a horseman strikes his beast (see Numbers 22:27), and the spears - were mostly composed of timber. When all should have been given to the flames, it would then appear that on their late owners the lex talionis had worked out its literal avengement, that they who had intended to despoil Israel were themselves spoiled; and they who hoped to plunder Israel were themselves plundered (comp. Isaiah 17:14).
So that they shall take no wood out of the field, neither cut down any out of the forests; for they shall burn the weapons with fire: and they shall spoil those that spoiled them, and rob those that robbed them, saith the Lord GOD.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will give unto Gog a place there of graves in Israel, the valley of the passengers on the east of the sea: and it shall stop the noses of the passengers: and there shall they bury Gog and all his multitude: and they shall call it The valley of Hamongog.
Verses 11-16 contain a second proof of the completeness of Gog's destruction, viz. the length of time occupied in burying the slain and cleansing the land. Verse 11. - Gog, who should invade Israel in the hope of acquiring the entire mastery of her land, would obtain at Jehovah's hands only a place there of graves, i.e. either, as Hitzig, Ewald, Keil, and Smend suggest, a place where a grave might be possible - a place large enough to receive his slaughtered carcasses; or as Havernick proposes, "an altogether special grave as no other in Israel;" or as Schroder interprets, "a place where there is a grave for him and nothing else." Concerning both the designation and the site of this divinely provided sepulcher controversy has arisen.
(1) As to its site. The notion of Michaelis and Eiehhom, that the valley of the passengers on the east of the sea was in some way related to the mountains of Abarim mentioned in Numbers 27:12 and Deuteronomy 32:49, and that of Hitzig, that it signified "the valley of the opposite heights," as in 1 Samuel 17:3, and was to be sought for in the "very great valley" of Zechariah 14:4, may at once be dismissed - the former as untenable, and -the latter as far-fetched. The suggestion of Hengstenberg and Kliefoth, that by the burial-place of Gog was meant the valley of Megiddo, where Josiah fell in battle against Pharaoh-Necho (2 Kings 23:29), derives support from these considerations, that the very name of Megiddo points to battles, that in its vicinity are found such passes as are here described, and that its modern designation Lejun (Leqio), in all probability contains a reminiscence of the present passage. It is, however, open to the obvious objections that the place of Gog's burial was not contiguous to the field of his overthrow, and that the clause locating it "on the east of the sea," by which on this hypothesis must be understood the Mediterranean, is rather descriptive of the entire land than of any particular spot therein. Hence the view of Havernick, Ewald, Keil, and Smoud, which finds the valley in the neighborhood of the Dead Sea, is to be preferred, though, even with agreement as to this, interpreters are not unanimous as to the spot intended. Ewald thinks of "the horrible, unwholesome valley over against the sea, i.e. (comp. Ezekiel 47:8) the Dead Sea, that valley which covers the ancient overbearing ones (die Zerreisenden), the Sodomites, who resemble these;" Keil, translating kidmath as "in front of," holds by "the valley of the Jordan above the Dead Sea;" Havernick and Smend advocate "a place outside the Holy Land," though the clause, "a grave in Israel," seems against this. Dr. Currey, in the 'Speaker's Commentary,' hints, net without reason, that the valley was "imaginary."
(2) As to its designation. That in the word "passengers" lies a paronomasia is apparent; but whether threefold or only twofold is uncertain. In the present verse הָעֹבְרִים may signify either
(1) such travelers as were wont to pass through the valley (Keil), which is the obvious and natural interpretation; or
(2) the warriors of Gog (Ewald, Hitzig), who intended to pass through the land, but whose invasion had only proved a passing storm; or
(3) the commissioners who should be appointed to pass through the land in search of bones (ver. 15). The notion of Ewald, who derives עֹבִרִים from עֶבְרָה, and translates "haughty," "overbearing," meaning the Gogites, is countenanced by no ether expositor. If the first sense be taken, then the verse will read, "The valley of the passers through, and it (the valley, in consequence of having become the grave of Gog) stops (the way of) the passers through;" i.e. it becomes thereafter impassable for travelers (Rosenmüller, Keil); or, it stops the noses, or breath, of such travelers by reason of its horrible stench (Ewald, Havernick). If the second meaning be selected, the valley must be understood to have afterwards received its name from the fact that Gog's warriors lay entombed beneath its sod, and "the stopping of the passengers" to signify that whereas Gog purposed to overrun the land, his destructive career was there ignominiously arrested (Schroder). If the third rendering be preferred, then the valley will be held to have derived its designation, after the event, from the passing through it or through the land of the searchers, in which case the stepping of the passengers can only have alluded to the fact that, as the "buriers" proceeded with the work of interment, they were compelled to turn away their faces and stop their noses because of the noisome effluvium which arose from the corpses. The first interpretation is the best, though the first and second might be combined by making the first "passengers" stand for the travelers and the second for the invaders, whose career should there be stopped; and to this view a certain countenance is lent by the statements which follow, that there should Gog and all his multitude - literally, all his noisy tumult - be buried, and that the valley ever afterwards should bear the name of Hamon-gog, or, Gog s multitude.
And seven months shall the house of Israel be burying of them, that they may cleanse the land.
Verses 12, 13. - The time that should be occupied in Gog's funeral should be seven months - so great should be the number of the dead - the sacred number seven recalling the seven years consumed in the burning of the weapons (ver. 9), and reminding one of the "seven times heated" furnace into which the Hebrew children were cast, and of the "seven times" of Nebuchadnezzar's humiliation (Daniel 3:19; Daniel 4:23). The parties who should conduct his obsequies should be the house of Israel, even all the people of the land, indicating the common joy occasioned by the barbaric chieftain's overthrow. The motive which should impel them in their work would be a desire to cleanse the land from the defilement it had contracted from the corpses of the slain (comp. Numbers 19:11, 22; Numbers 31:19; Numbers 35:33); and the end should be that the work should be to them, not for "a remembrance" (Ewald), but a renown, not because they should have helped to bury Gog (Hengstenberg), or through burying Gog should have proved themselves his conquerors (Smend), and in virtue of Jehovah's protection the possessors of his grave (Hitzig), but because in the day when Jehovah glorified himself through Gog's destruction, he (Jehovah) should also be glorified by their (Israel's) zeal "to show themselves a holy people by sweeping all uncleanness away" (Keil).
Yea, all the people of the land shall bury them; and it shall be to them a renown the day that I shall be glorified, saith the Lord GOD.
And they shall sever out men of continual employment, passing through the land to bury with the passengers those that remain upon the face of the earth, to cleanse it: after the end of seven months shall they search.
Verse 14. - When the work of burying Gog should have gone on for seven months, at the end of that time the Israelites should sever out (comp. Deuteronomy 10:8) men of continual employment; literally, men of con-t/nuance; i.e. persons hired for a continuous work or devoted to a constant occupation, whose business it should be passing through the land to bury with the passengers those that remain - or, as the Revised Version reads, to bury them that pass through, that remain - upon the face of the land. Here, again, the old play upon the word "passengers" recurs, and with it two or three difficulties.
(1) It is not clear whether the commissioners consisted of two classes of officers, "passers through," or "searchers," who scoured the land in search of unburied skeletons or bones, which, however, they did not bury; and "buriers" proper, who, accompanying these searchers, conducted the interment of such skeletons or bones as were found (Hengstenberg, Keil); or whether the commissioners were only one body, who both searched and buried (Ewald and Smend).
(2) It is doubtful whether the אֶת in אֶת־הָעֹבְרִים should be taken as the sign of the accusative, and the clause translated as in the Revised Version, in which case the "passengers" that should be buried could only be the "invaders" as above (see ver. 11); or as a preposition, in which case the rendering of the Authorized Version must stand, and the "passengers" be regarded as the "searchers."
(3) It is open to debate whether ver. 14 should not close with the initial words of ver. 15, as Ewald proposes, "And the passengers shall search and pass through in the land;" or at least whether the first clause in ver. 15 should not form an independent sentence, thus: "And they that pass through in the land shall pass through," as in the Revised Version, in which case the sighting of unburied bones (ver. 15) would not necessarily be the work of "searchers," but of any one, the verb וְרָאָה being impersonal. It is impossible to decide dogmatically in a question of so much difficulty; but the Revised Version appears to present the most exact rendering of the Hebrew, and upon the whole the most intelligible account of what was intended to take place, viz. the appointment of a special body of commissioners, who should be designated both "passengers," in ironical allusion to Gog who had meant to pass through the land, and "buffers," from the nature of the task delegated to them, viz. the interment of the "passengers," i.e. the Gogites, and who should begin their work after the main body of the slain had been removed, i.e. at the end of the seven months of burying.
And the passengers that pass through the land, when any seeth a man's bone, then shall he set up a sign by it, till the buriers have buried it in the valley of Hamongog.
Verse 15 describes the method of procedure these "searchers" and "buriers," should follow. If these were distinct from each other, the "searchers" - if they were the same, any others - on discovering a man's bone should set up a sign by it; literally, build near it a pillar; erect a heap of stone (comp. 2 Kings 23:17; Jeremiah 31:21) to call the attention of the butlers, who, on coming to the spot, should inter it in the valley of Hamon-gog.
And also the name of the city shall be Hamonah. Thus shall they cleanse the land.
Verse 16. - As another mark to distinguish Gog's tomb, a city should arise in its vicinity, bearing the name Hamonah, or "Multitude" (comp. Isaiah 19:18, "the city of destruction"), though Schmieder thinks it must have been "a city of graves," since a city of houses could not exist in such a valley of the dead, and indeed the LXX. gives as the city's name Πολυάνδριον, by which later Greek writers were accustomed to call the common ground in a cemetery as distinguished from its paternal sepulchers. If quite improbable that Bethshan or Scythopolis near Megiddo was Ezekiel's Hamonah, it is possible the actual city may have been named after the ideal. Plumptre cites as a modern parallel the English town of Lichfield (or "Field of corpses"), which, according to tradition, commemorates the destruction of the Danes. When the work of the buriers should be finished, the land would be completely cleansed.
And, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord GOD; Speak unto every feathered fowl, 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 upon the mountains of Israel, that ye may eat flesh, and drink blood.
Verses 17-20 exhibit in a third way the severity of Gog's overthrow by setting forth the bloody carnage which should attend it. Verse 17. - Expanding the thought of ver. 4, and borrowing the imagery of the older prophets, Isaiah (Isaiah 34:6; Isaiah 56:9) and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 46:10; Jeremiah 50:29; Jeremiah 51:40), Ezekiel represents Gog's destruction as a great sacrifice - literally, slaying; hence a sacrificial feast or simply banquet (as in Genesis 31:54) - upon the mountains of Israel, prepared by Jehovah for the fowls of the air and the beasts of the field, which he, therefore, invites to come from all quarters to eat flesh and drink blood.
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.
Verse 18 specifies the victims whose flesh and blood should form their banquet, viz. the mighty, as in Ezekiel 32:12, 27, and the princes of the earth, meaning the nobles and other dignitaries in Gog's army, who, in accordance with the symbol of a feast, are spoken of as "rams," "lambs," "goats," "bullocks," and "fatlings of Bashan" (comp. Psalm 22:12). "Per haec animantium, quae in saarificiis usurpari solebant, nomina varii hominum ordines intelliguntur, principum, ducum, militum, quod et Chaldaeus observat " (Grotius. Comp. Revelation 19:17, 18). In Zephaniah 1:7 the heathen are the guests, and his people the victims, at Jehovah's banquet.
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.
Thus ye shall be filled at my table with horses and chariots, with mighty men, and with all men of war, saith the Lord GOD.
And I will set my glory among the heathen, and all the heathen shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid upon them.
Verses 21-29 record the impression Gog's overthrow should make upon both Israel and the heathen.
So the house of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God from that day and forward.
Verse 22. - The house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God from that day forward. What should convince them of this would be their triumph and deliverance through Gog's annihilation.
And the heathen shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity: because they trespassed against me, therefore hid I my face from them, and gave them into the hand of their enemies: so fell they all by the sword.
Verses 23, 24. - And the heathen shall know. The special lesson for them should be not so much teaching concerning God's supremacy over them, or concerning their relation to Israel, as concerning the principles of God's dealings with Israel. They should learn that if Israel had for a season been abandoned to the sword and driven into exile, it was not because of Jehovah's inability to protect them, but because of their wickedness which had caused him to hide his face from them - an expression which in Ezekiel occurs only here and in ver. 29, though it is found in the Pentateuch (Deuteronomy 31:17, 18) and in the older prophets (Isaiah 8:17; Isaiah 54:8; Isaiah 57:17; Isaiah 64:7; Jeremiah 33:5).
According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions have I done unto them, and hid my face from them.
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Now will I bring again the captivity of Jacob, and have mercy upon the whole house of Israel, and will be jealous for my holy name;
Verses 25-29. - This section Hengstenberg regards as the close of the whole system of prophecies of a predominantly comforting character from Ezekiel 33:21 onwards;" Keil views it as the proper conclusion to the prophecy concerning Gog and the series of predictions from Ezekiel 35:1 onwards. It is in substance a recapitulation of God's gracious promise to bring again the captivity of Israel, of which the prophet had just been reminded in ver. 23, and to which accordingly he now in thought goes back. It traces the whole course of the Divine dealings with the nation from the point of the exile onwards. Verse 25. - I will bring again the captivity of Jacob. (For the use of "Jacob" as a designation of the people, see Ezekiel 28:25; Ezekiel 37:25.) The promise goes back to Deuteronomy 30:3; Jeremiah 29:14; Jeremiah 30:3; Jeremiah 31:23; Jeremiah 32:44; and other passages. That its fulfillment began with the return from Babylon is not inconsistent with the view that its fulfillment will terminate with the final ingathering of Israel out of the nations by her conversion to Christianity, and her consequent admission to the Church. That its first cause will be "mercy" to the whole house of Israel will not prevent that cause from being at the same time a jealous regard for the Divine holiness (comp. Ezekiel 36:21, 22).
After that they have borne their shame, and all their trespasses whereby they have trespassed against me, when they dwelt safely in their land, and none made them afraid.
Verse 26. - After they have borne their shame (comp. Ezekiel 16:52, 54; Ezekiel 32:24, 30; Ezekiel 34:29; Ezekiel 36:6). The captivity of Israel would not be brought back until her people had been thoroughly chastised for their iniquities, and that chastisement had wrought in them a spirit of penitence and a disposition towards obedience. Then should Jehovah interpose for their deliver-ante by gathering them out of their enemies' lands and leading them back to their own land; and these two experiences, the Captivity and the Restoration, the driving out and the bringing in, should complete their conversion to Jehovah, and secure their perpetual enjoyment of Jehovah's favor.
When I have brought them again from the people, and gathered them out of their enemies' lands, and am sanctified in them in the sight of many nations;
Then shall they know that I am the LORD their God, which caused them to be led into captivity among the heathen: but I have gathered them unto their own land, and have left none of them any more there.
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 GOD.
Verse 29. - I have poured out my Spirit upon the house of Israel. Already Jehovah had promised to put his Spirit in his people (Ezekiel 36:27; Ezekiel 37:14); now the fact that he has implemented that promise by a copious effusion of the same he cites as a proof that Israel shall no more forfeit his favor because no more shall she forsake his ways (comp. Isaiah 59:21). The same promise had been previously given by Joel (Joel 2:28), and was afterwards renewed by Zechariah (Zechariah 12:10). The citation of Joel's words by Peter on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17) shows that he regarded the remarkable effusion of the Holy Ghost on that memorable occasion as a fulfillment of the premise here recorded by Ezekiel. Yet the promise was not then exhausted. Rather it has often since been implemented, and will doubtless receive its consummation in the New Jerusalem. "No historical Church, Jewish or Gentile," writes Plumptre, "has ever yet realized the picture here sketched by Ezekiel. We ask, as before - Will it ever be realized on earth? or must we look for it only in the heavenly city whose Builder and Maker is God?" NOTE. - In addition to what has been stated at the beginning of this prophecy (Ezekiel 38:1) with reference to the general significance of this invasion by and overthrow of Cog, that it points to some tremendous conflict in the latter days between the powers of the world and the Church of Christ, a few words may be offered in support of the preposition that nevertheless there is no reason to expect that this conflict will take the form of an actual invasion of the land of Israel or of a real fire-and-sword battle with the Church, or that Gog will step upon the field as a veritable flesh-and-blood personality, and his armies find a grave in the manner sketched by the prophet. That the whole delineation is symbolic, and embodies spiritual truths under material emblems, will hardly be doubted by one who impartially weighs the following considerations, which have been admirably brought together by Fairbairn.
1. The designation given to the great assailant of the latter times - Gog, which discovers itself to be an ideal name, if by nothing else by the manner in which it has been formed.
2. The composition of his army, which is drawn from the four quarters of the globe, in fact, from the extremities of the earth, and consists of peoples not only remote from one another, but "the most unlike naturally to act in concert for any particular purpose."
3. The object of his attack - the land of Israel, a territory so small that it is inconceivable a host so great should have been required to capture it, and so poor that had the invaders got all it contained it "could not have served to maintain them for a single day."
4. The fruits of Israel's victory - firewood for seven years out of the enemies' weapons, and seven months of labor in burying their corpses. "It would be but a very moderate allowance, on the literal supposition, to say that a million of men would thus be engaged, and that on an average each would consign two corpses to the tomb in one day; which for the hundred and eighty working days of the seven months would make an aggregate of three hundred and sixty millions of corpses! Then the putrefaction, the pestilential vapors arising from such masses of slain victims, before they were all buried. Who could live at such a time?"
5. The impossibility of harmonizing prophecy on the hypothesis that Ezekiel's picture must receive a literal interpretation, since Isaiah (Isaiah 34.), Joel (Joel 3:12, 14), and Zechariah (Zechariah 14), who all appear to depict the same conflict as Ezekiel portrays, each pitches its scene in a different locality.
6. The gross carnality of the whole picture on the assumption that it must be literally interpreted, which is wholly inconsistent with that spirituality one associates with the Messianic times. "Persons," writes Fairbairn, "who in the face of all these considerations can still cling to the literal view of this prophecy, must be left to themselves; they are incapable of being convinced in the way of argument."