C. H. H. Wright on Gog and Magog

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The Creation Concept


Biblical essays

by C. H. H. Wright.
T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh.
pp. 99-139.

Key to the Apocalypse



Of Trinity College, Dublin; M.A. of Exeter College, Oxford;
Ph.D. of the University of Leipzig;
Brampton Lecturer for 1878 in the University of Oxford;
Donnellan Lecturer (1880-81) in the University of Dublin;
Incumbent of Bethesda Church, Dublin;
Late of St. Mary's, Belfast.

"WHAT hast thou which thou didst not receive? but if thou didst receive it, why then dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?" So Paul chode the Corinthian converts (1 Cor. iv. 7), who were disposed to boast of the teachers whom they followed, and the gifts of grace of which they had been made partakers; the most remarkable of which, the wonderful gift of tongues, they were delighted to display, in order to draw forth the admiration of beholders, rather than to promote their edification. The reproof of the apostle is, however, applicable to many other Churches than that of Corinth, and to many other nationalities than the boastful Greeks.

Every nation is more or less disposed to think well of itself, and to glory in the great men whicli have belonged to it in former days, or the able men belonging to it in the present time. It is quite natural for a people to know its own history better than that of others, and to understand its own good qualities, while it is ignorant of those of others. But it is well to look abroad as well as at home, to observe excellencies in others as well as in ourselves, to become acquainted with our own defects as well as to be able to comment on the shortcomings of other nations. It may be useful to remember the apostolic precept: "Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others" (Phil. ii. 4). For it lays down a principle which is applicable not only to individuals but also to nationalities -- God is the God of the whole earth, and He "hath made of one every nation of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed seasons and the bounds of their habitation" (Acts xvii. 26).

The only nation specially selected by God as His own was the people of Israel. That choice and selection was also made for the benefit of the world at large (see p. 45). It is mere folly to speak of any other people as specially "chosen of God." All nations have their appointed places and their special missions. But we cannot always understand what the special mission of each may be. No nation is hated by the Father of all men, "who willeth that all men should be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. ii. 4). No nation is to be regarded as of necessity foredoomed to fall under the divine judgments. The distinct utterance of Jeremiah on this very subject (xviii. 710) must never be forgotten; which is the more remarkable as having proceeded from a prophet who uttered, perhaps, more predictions in refer- ence to the ruin and downfall of different nations than any other prophet of Israel. He was emphatically "a prophet unto the nations" (Jer. i. 5). As such he was set by God "over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, and to destroy and to overthrow; to build, and to plant" (Jer. i. 10). And yet the teaching of the eighteenth chapter is in substance that no nation is punished but for their own sin voluntarily committed, and that true repentance, as taught in the Book of Jonah, may at any moment stave off the threatened judgment; yea, even though the destroying angel sent forth from Jehovah were standing, as in the case of Jerusalem of old, with the drawn sword in his hand stretched out over the nation (1 Chron. xxi. 15, 16).

English exponents of Scripture have often -- in a manner which (were it not for the sacredness of the subject) would be positively amusing -- shown a spirit akin to that which gave utterance to the sentiment expressed by the Pharisee of old: "Lord, I thank Thee I am not as other men are." In popular interpretations of the prophecies of the Book of the Revelation, considerable ingenuity has been exerted in order to prove that the English nation is to be exempted from the horrors of "the great tribulation," which these commentators have depicted as destined to come upon all the other nations of the world. [1] Some few more ingenious individuals have, under the influence of similar national bigotry, endeavoured to make out that the English nation is derived from the sacred stock of Israel; or, if not actually belonging to the House of Israel, is at least destined to be the people through whom the Israelites are to be brought back to the Land of Promise. It has been seriously urged by some of these would-be interpreters, that the English race must needs be connected with the tribes of Zebulon or Issachar, for the English people "suck of the abundance of the seas and of treasures hid in the sand" (Deut. xxxiii. 18, 19). It was, however, reserved for our own age to witness the culmination of such absurdities, in the recent and widespread attempt of some well-designing but illinformed English Christians, on the basis of false history, false philology, and false Biblical exegesis, to demonstrate that the Anglo-Saxon race as a whole is to be identified with "the lost tribes" of Israel, supposed by many to have been swallowed up in the quicksands of history.

Far-seeing politicians have often spoken of the possibility of another struggle between the East and the West, the might of the former directed by the Russian Empire. It was quite natural that the great Napoleon, whose downfall was mainly brought about by the gigantic losses suffered in his Russian campaign, should, on his solitary rock at St. Helena, point to Russia as the danger of the future. But it is only in the last fifty years that Russia, whose assistance was so welcome in England's mortal struggle with France in the early part of this century, has been generally recognised as likely to become in the future England's most dangerous adversary.

We have no intention whatever of indulging here in any speculations as to the future. But it is important to call attention to the fact that no inconsiderable number of our Bible-reading and Bible-loving people have, without inquiry into its correctness, admitted the principle that the Sacred Scriptures contain prophecies of all the great events which are destined to influence human history up to the end of time. Hence, ever since a collision between the empires of England and Russia has become a probability, not a few popular writers many of them persons who have never studied the first principles of Biblical interpretation have turned to the writings of the prophets in order to discover where such an event is predicted.

It is not at all strange that persons so predisposed should accept without hesitation the remarkable prophecy of Ezekiel respecting Gog and Magog as clearly predicting "the Coming Struggle." Thousands and tens of thousands of copies of a pamphlet, with that sensational title, were eagerly purchased and discussed in numerous quarters during the struggle between England and Russia, generally known as the Crimean War. The outcome, indeed, of that campaign hy no means corresponded with the expectations excited by the popular prophetical expositions of the day; but a considerable portion of the English religious public, little trained to careful examination of first principles, has ever shown itself disposed to listen with eagerness to new predictions of a similar kind, vainly imagining that the former exponents of prophecy have only mistaken "the times and the seasons," but convinced that the prophecy is destined to be accomplished in some similar manner.

The proper names mentioned in Ezekiel's prophecy appear at first sight to afford some basis for such an interpretation as that to which we refer. Gog and Magog, since the time of Josephus, have been interpreted to mean the Scythian tribes living in the Caucasus and the districts between the Caspian Sea and the Sea of Asof, and the Arabic writers use almost the same designation, speaking of Yagug and Magug. Meshech has been supposed to point to Moscow, Tubal to Tobolsk, on the Tobol, the capital of Western Siberia, and it is quite possible to translate the words of Ezek. xxxviii. 2 as in the Revised Version: "Set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal." The name Rosh has therefore been easily identified with Russia, and to the untrained mind the correspondence in all these particulars appears marvellous and striking.

It must be acknowledged that no less a scholar than Gesenius was led astray by the similarity of the names Eosh and Eussia, and was induced by the authority of Byzantine Greek writers of the tenth century to affirm that the Rosh of Ezekiel which word the old Greek version (the LXX.) retains in the text was a Scythian nation belonging to those living near the Taurus range of mountains. Gesenius, after Bochart, fancied that a trace of the name in earlier times might be discovered in the name of a Scythian tribe Rhoxalani, compounded of Rhos and Alani. It has, however, since been shown by scholars that the name of Eussian is of Scandinavian origin, that it was borne by the Swedish founders of the Russian State who migrated there in the ninth century, and that through those emigrants into Russia it gradually became the name accepted generally by the Eastern Slavs. Hence there is no real connection between the names Rosh and Russia. [2] Nor is it absolutely certain that the translation "Prince of Rosh" is the most correct rendering, although the balance of critical opinion is decidedly in its favour. It is to be noted that Smend, one of the latest critical interpreters of Ezekiel, maintains that the correct translation is that found in the Authorized Version, "the chief prince of Meshek and Tubal." [3] If the word be a proper name it may mean the people of Rash, inhabiting "the land of Rash" on the borders of ancient Elam on the Tigris, although there is some difficulty in the fact that a people dwelling so far to the east should be mentioned in connection with peoples of Asia Minor such as were the nations of Meshek and Tubal. [4]

According to the opinions of the best critics, the name Gog is either to be identified with Gugu, Gyges, the name borne by a remarkable king of Lydia, or, perhaps better, with the name Gagi, which also occurs as the name of a king in the Assyrian inscriptions. [5] There is a close connection between the names Gog and Magog. Whether the prefix ma in the latter word denotes land or country, or is a mere preformative, has not yet been distinctly ascertained. [6] Assurbanipal, the great king of Assyria, who lived nearly a century prior to the time of Ezekiel, thus describes his victory over the formidable Scythian tribes who inhabited the mountainous country north of Assyria. "Sarati and Pariza, sons of Gagi (Gog), a chief of the Saka (*** Sa-hi, Scythians}, who had thrown off the yoke of my dominion, seventy-five of their strong cities I took. I carried off their spoil. Themselves alive in hand I took, and brought them to Nineveh, the city of my dominion." [7]

Some years afterwards, when Assurbanipal was no more, those Scythian tribes burst forth from their mountain homes, and when the Medes had gained decisive victories over the Assyrians, those northern peoples swooped down upon the victors, beat them in turn in bloody engagements, and became for a time masters of Asia, extending their conquests to the very borders of the Holy Land, and threatening even Egypt in the south. For more than a quarter of a century those savage people rode roughshod over Asia, "during which time their insolence and oppression," as the great Greek historian tells us, "spread ruin on every side" (Herod., i. 103-6). They were devastators, not merely conquerors; their main object was to carry over the wealth of others, their "cattle and goods." Their countless hordes of horsemen traversed the country, with the numerous scalps of their slain, foes, which were used as napkins, hanging from their bridle reins. Their archers were the terror of the land, and their quivers were usually covered with human skins, while they sometimes bore aloft as standards flayed bodies of their enemies stretched upon frames. Their drinking cups were human skulls.

Cappadocia, in Asia Minor, known to us in the New Testament as one of the regions of the Apostle Paul's missionary labours, was called by the ancient Armenians Gamir, and the people thereof were known as Gimmeri, the Kimmerians, or Cimmerians of Homer. This is the district known as Gomer in the Bible. In the wars of Asarhaddon and Assurbanipal the people of Gimir are mentioned as common enemies of the Assyrian monarchs at the same time as the Scythians. [8] The Scythian tribes invaded Asia sometimes by the route of the Caucasus, and at other times by the way of Thrace, crossing over the narrow straits known then as the Hellespont, and now as the Dardanelles. Some time previous to the great raid of the Scythians into Asia, war seems to have broken out between them and the Grimm eri; and, according to Herodotus, it was in pursuit of the latter tribes, who were expelled from Europe, that the Scythians crossed over into Asia Minor. In their further raid into Central Asia the Gimmeri probably swelled the Scythian ranks. The warlike nations also of the Mosci and the Tibareni living in the countries north-west of Armenia, often vanquished by the Assyrians, and mentioned in the Assyrian inscriptions as the peoples inhabiting the land of the Mush-ki or Muski, and the land of Tabali or Tabal, adjoining Cilicia, shook off about the same time the Assyrian yoke, and joined with the Scythians, who traversed their country in their march towards Central Asia.

Among the various nationalities represented by the prophet Ezekiel as trading in the markets of Tyre, along with the merchants of Tarshish in distant Spain, and with the traders of Javan (the Greeks), Tubal and Meshek are spoken of as bringing slaves and copper to Tyre for sale. The people of Togarmah are also mentioned along with the Phoenicians, as offering for sale in the same mart horses and mules in abundance. These people were not improbably tribes inhabiting South-Western Armenia, and possibly were represented among the wild tribes, who, either by persuasion or force, were swept along with the Scythian hordes in their terrific descent upon the rich and civilised cities which belonged to the empires of Assyria and Media.

The name, indeed, of Togarmah has not yet been satisfactorily explained. Christian Armenian writers, on the ground of these passages of Ezekiel, have spoken of their nation as the house of Thorgom, but no satisfactory evidence in support of this identification has been yet afforded. [9] The identification of the name with that of Turk or Turcoman is to be classed among the chimeras of prophetical enthusiasts or Jewish speculators, [10] on a par with the identification of Rosh as Russia, Meshek as Moscow, Tubal as Tobolski, Gomer as Germany, and Javan as pointing through Ivan, the founder of the Eussian Empire, to the connection between the Russian and the Greek Churches. [11]

Ezekiel and his fellow-exiles were carried away captives to Babylonia, and located on the banks of the great canal, termed by him the River Chebar, 8 not many years after the expulsion of the Scythian hordes from that country. The exiles must have often heard of the story how, when the Scythian warriors were weakened by luxury, the Median monarch, after an awful massacre of their chieftains at a banquet of wine, brought the remnant of those savage hordes into subjection, and re-established order and civilisation in those vast territories. Their final massacre and overthrow is alluded to by Ezekiel in his denunciations against Egypt, in recalling to mind the previous downfall of Assyria and Elani. The prophet warns Pharaoh that a similar fate is reserved for his kingdom:

"There (in the pit of Sheol, or Hades) is Meshek and Tubal, and all her multitude, round about her grave, all of them uncircumcised, slain by the sword, though they caused their terror in the land of the living" (Ezek. xxxii. 26).

The very mention of Russians and Frenchmen has in modern days often awakened dread and horror in the lands once overrun by their armies. The names of Tartar and Turk were similarly wont to arouse terror in earlier days. It is therefore only natural to suppose that in the lands of Babylonia the Jewish captives soon learned to pronounce in their own tongue the names of Gog and Magog, of Muski and Tabal, as words suggestive of the wildest and most ferocious cruelties and barbarism, and as names inspiring the utmost fear and terror. The Scythian hordes had, in very deed, in the days of Josiah, approached the confines of the Holy Land, but they were not permitted to traverse its plains or to molest its valleys or hills. There was, however, in the days of Ezekiel reason to fear another Scythian invasion. Ruthless as had been the armies of the Assyrians and those of the Chaldaeans, those civilised soldiers were far less to be dreaded than the warriors of the Scythians. The Jews, in their captivity among civilised nations, first learned what a scourge they had escaped, in having been protected by Providence from the horrors of a Scythian invasion, and were led to note that Jehovah might have employed even a more terrible "rod" and "staff" than that of the Chaldaeans, with which to have chastised His guilty people.

The prophecy concerning Gog and Magog was to be fulfilled in "the latter years" (xxxviii. 8) or in "the latter days" (xxxviii. 16). Ezekiel is the only prophet who makes use of the former expression. But this fact is of little significance, inasmuch as the prophet himself explains the expression as identical with the latter and more common phrase. The expression "the latter days" is indefinite, and is often employed in cases where no reference is specifically designed to the times immediately preceding the final close of the world's history. The phrase occurs in many prophecies long since accomplished, such as those of Jacob (Gen. xlix. 1), the predictions of Balaam (Num. xxiv. 14), the prophecy of Daniel concerning the wars of the kings of the north and the south (Dan. x. 14), as well as in others partly fulfilled, but yet to be accomplished more fully (such as Isa. ii. 2; Micah iv. 1; Hosea iii. 5; Jer. xxiii. 20, xxx. 24, xlviii. 47, xlix. 39). These prophecies are spoken of as to be accomplished "in the latter days;" while the same expression is used indefinitely for "in after days" in other passages of Scripture (Deut. iv. 30, xxxi. 29).

Ezekiel's prophecy concerning Gog and Magog (xxxviii. 39) contains distinct indications, which are quite sufficient to prove to the intelligent reader that it was never intended to be understood literally. The prophecy is couched in metaphorical language. The awful events, then fresh in the memory of many of his hearers, are employed in it as figures, in order to depict in more vivid colours the vain attacks of the nations of the world on the people whom Jehovah specially had chosen to be His inheritance. The people of Israel, though they were to he chastised for their sins, were not to be cast away, or delivered up entirely to the mercy of their cruel foes. "For the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance," or "not repented of" (Rom. xi. 29).

Though, in the prophecy of Ezekiel the scene of the final catastrophe described is ideally laid in Palestine, the conflict is not necessarily or exclusively thought of as waged in that land. See Ezek. xxxix. 6, and comp. xxxviii. 20, xxxix. 21. Consequently as the struggle itself does not admit of actual localization, save for the purposes of allegory, the enemies alluded to are not to be viewed as persons necessarily belonging to any particular nationalities.

In the opening of the prophecy, Ezekiel introduces the Most High as thus addressing Gog the adversary: "Art thou not he of whom I have spoken in old time by my servants the prophets of Israel, which prophesied in those days for years that I would bring thee against them?" [12] x (xxxviii. 17). Similarly, when the overthrow of Magog is spoken of, it is added: "Behold it is come, and it is done, saith the Lord God, this is the day whereof I have spoken" (xxxix. 8).

While, however, Ezekiel in the name of God thus emphatically states that the invasion of Gog and Magog and the final overthrow of those adversaries were repeatedly spoken of by the prophets of Israel, not a single verse is to be found in any of the books of the prophets, prior to the days of Ezekiel, which depicts by name such an irruption of Gog and Magog.

Are we then to conclude with some critics that the predictions alluded to, though well known in the prophet's days, have been lost, and that the ruthless exploits of Gog and his dire destruction, were actually the theme for years and years of the prophets of Israel, although not a vestige of such prophecies has survived the ravages of time? Or ought we not to regard the prophecies pronounced against Assyria (such as Isa. x. 6), against Edom (Isa. xxxiv.), against Babylon (Isa. xxiv. xxvii.; Jer. 1., li.), against Egypt, Tyre, Moab, Ammon, and the other enemies of Israel, as being in reality the prophecies to which the Lord refers? For those prophecies speak of an irruption of enemies from all quarters of the world against the people of the Lord, in order to devour their persons, and to plunder their goods, and speak at the same time of the overthrow of the adversaries by the putting forth of the right hand of the Lord, which is glorious in power, and has repeatedly dashed to pieces the enemy (Ex. xv. 6). Zephaniah, when prophesying the destruction of Nineveh, speaks of the gathering of the nations (Zeph. iii. 8); and the same phenomenon may be noticed in the other prophecies referred to.

The overthrow of the adversaries of the Lord and His people is, indeed, the great theme of all inspired prophets. When the spirit of prophecy rested for a while even upon a feeble woman like Hannah, her mouth was opened in thanksgiving, not simply to thank God for the blessing of which she was individually made a partaker, but to exalt the majesty of Him "who will keep the feet of His saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail. The adversaries of the Lord will be broken to pieces; out of heaven will He thunder upon them; the Lord shall judge the ends of the earth, and He shall give strength unto His king, and exalt the horn of His Messiah" (1 Sam. ii. 9, 10).

Gog, the wild and savage chieftain, was informed by the prophet at the very outset (as Moses and Aaron told the proud king of Egypt) that he was in the hands of one stronger than he, and was, though he knew it not, actually being turned about like a wild and savage animal, turned round hither and thither by hooks fastened in its jaws (comp. Isa. xxx. 28, xxxvii. 29). This is the meaning of the expression translated in our version (xxxviii. 4): "And I will turn thee back." It was amusing to note how many English "students of prophecy" availed themselves of this sentence to modify their previous predictions about Russia, when, after the opening battles of the Crimean war, the great northern power appeared, contrary to their original expectations, likely to be worsted in its struggle with the allied forces of Turkey, England, and France. Those would-be expositors then turned back to their "prophetical studies," and endeavoured to twist the sentence of Ezekiel into a prophecy of the defeat of Russia at the first onset, though they held fast to their notion that the prophet spoke of a great victory to be achieved by Gog in a second campaign. But the words of the prophet convey no such meaning. The idea conveyed in the passage is that the adversaries of Jehovah, though they know it not (Isa. x. 7), are directed by a higher power, and that Divine Providence will infallibly guide those who obstinately disobey the commands of God, as it guided Pharaoh of old, into the abyss of destruction, over the precipice into the roaring waves beneath.

The prophet does not represent the object of the confederacy of Gog and Magog as any attempt to extirpate the worship of Jehovah. That confederacy is not pourtrayed as an infidel and God-defying combination. The object of the enemy is simply stated to be the taking of spoil, the capture of prey. The Israelites are described as restored to their land, but the prophet in his allegory does not represent the land of Israel (as in xxxvi. 35) as full of cities duly fenced and inhabited, but pictures the country as a land of unwalled villages, in which the people dwell confidently and at ease, without walls, or gates, or bars. Hence a golden opportunity was presented to the ruthless invader of taking away cattle and goods, and deriving great spoil. That which Gog and Magog desired was filthy lucre; the love of money and gain was the root of their iniquity. Covetousness was their sin, the greed of things not their own hurried them on to attempt to plunder the people of God.

When the sacred historians, or the books of the prophets, describe armies of Syrians, Assyrians or Chaldaeans, going up against the Israelites, bands of merchant traders are also spoken of as hovering in the rear of those armies, ready to purchase the captives taken in war as slaves, and to offer a price for the spoils of war. Joel thus speaks of the Syrians and Zidonians as receiving the sacred spoils, and selling Israelite captives as slaves to the distant Greeks (Joel iii. 4-6). Amos states that the crowning sin of the Philistines and of the Syrians was tli at they sold their Israelite captives wholesale to the Edomite merchants (i. 6-9). Similar acts are described by the historian in 1 Macc. iii. 41.

The same custom is alluded to in Ezekiel's prophecy. "Sheba, Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish (the Phoenicians from distant Spain), with all the young lions thereof" the merchants of the world and not merely traders from the nations round about Israel the cruel, covetous, rapacious traffickers in human flesh being described as devouring lions (comp. xix. 2, xxxii. 2), are represented as collecting together from all quarters, in order to discover the intentions of the invaders of the Holy Land, and to offer their assistance in the due disposal of the spoil (xxxviii. 13). It ought to be noted that the second word in the phrase, "cattle and goods," employed in the verse, is used of the purchase of slaves (Lev. xxii. 11). [13]

Ezekiel had previously predicted the total overthrow of Tyre. Consequently it would not have been proper, even in an allegory, to have represented the merchants of Tyre as the persons seeking to profit by the results of the invasion of Gog. Hence he introduces into the sacred picture slave-dealers and merchants from Sheba (the Sabeans), from Arabia, and those of Dedan on the Persian Gulf, along with the merchants of far-distant Tarshish. The attempt first to transform a company of money-loving slave-dealers, who are represented in Ezekiel's picture as desirous to make unholy merchandize of the bodies of men, into heroes, ready to draw the sword in defence of poor oppressed Israel, and then further to explain "the merchants of Tarshish" to mean the mercantile and maritime power of England, is one of the most extraordinary misrepresentations of prophecy that can well be conceived. Russia, Germany, France, and other nations, are doomed, according to this interpretation, to be swept away with "the besom of destruction," while England with its Eastern allies are to be the only Gentile nations who are to choose the better part!! Such pretended "expositions" of the Bible are sad exhibitions, on the part of "evangelical" interpreters, of egotism and national Pharisaism. Such interpretations might well be left to fall by their innate absurdity, were it not that they are again and again cooked up anew, and eagerly devoured as wholesome spiritual food by many who pride themselves on their diligent study of the prophetic word.

The overthrow of Gog and Magog and their rapacious allies, maddened with covetousness and drawn on by the bait of gold to their own destruction, is represented by Ezekiel in strict accordance with the imagery common to the prophets of Israel. Jehovah pleads against the foe with pestilence and blood (xxxviii. 22). It was by a pestilence the Assyrian army of Sennacherib was overthrown in the very sight of Jerusalem. This is the ordinary way in which the Lord deals with rebel man. "For behold," says Isaiah (Ixvi. 15, 16), "Jehovah will come with fire and with His chariots like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by His sword will Jehovah plead with all flesh: and the slain of Jehovah shall be many." Thus also Zechariah in a remarkable prophecy (xiv. 12), which it is utterly impossible to interpret literally, describes such a pestilence as consuming the bodies, melting the eyes of the many nations that desired to look on the nakedness of poor Zion (Micah iv. 11), and also as rotting the tongues of the blasphemers who dared to blaspheme the God of Israel. [14]

Among the instrumentalities by which the avaricious confederacy is to be overthrown are "the great hailstones, fire and brimstone" (xxxviii. 22) often mentioned in earlier days. By fire and brimstone Sodom and Gomorrah were over-whelmed; and in Joshua's great battle with the five kings their hosts were discomfited at Azekah by hail-stones from heaven (Josh. x. 11). A storm of hail-stones repeatedly recurs in the symbols of the Book of the Revelation (xi. 19, xvi. 21), though for many reasons we abstain here from citing illustrative passages from that book. But it should be specially noted that in Isaiah's predictions of the ruin of Sennacherib and his army, which was mainly caused, according to the writer of the Book of Kings, by means of an awful pestilence, the prophet speaks of fire, hail, and thunder: "And Jehovah shall cause His glorious voice (comp. Ps. xxix. 3) to be heard, and shall show the lighting down of His arm, with the indignation of His anger, and with the flame of a devouring fire, with scattering and tempest and hailstones" (Isa. xxx. 30, 31).

The confederacy is also spoken of by Ezekiel as broken up by internecine conflict. The Lord shall call for a sword against Gog through all the mountains of Israel, and every man's sword shall be against his brother (xxxviii. 21). In the great battle at Michmash, the Philistines in a heaven-sent confusion turned their swords against one another, and so added to the terrible slaughter of that day (1 Sam. xiv. 20 ff.). Similar events happened in earlier days in the war against Midian (Judg. vii. 22), as well as repeatedly in later days (2 Chron. xx. 23). Hence the prophets introduce this feature into their description of the future overthrow of "the armies of the aliens." It forms a striking future in Zechariah's description of the great conflict (Zech. xiv. 13).

Gog is also represented as overthrown by an earthquake in the land of Israel. By the earthquake mountains are overturned, craggy rocks fall, and every wall is levelled with the ground (xxxviii. 19, 20). Earthquakes are introduced into all the prophetic pictures which represent the overthrow of the Lord's enemies and the salvation of the Lord's people. The earthquake is vividly depicted on the canvas of Zechariah; and the terror of the beasts of the field, of the fowls of the heaven and even of the fishes of the sea, occasioned by the dreaded phenomenon is mentioned in the Book of Hosea (Hos. iv. 3).

In our Lord's great prophecy of the latter days (Matt, xxiv., Mark xiii., Luke xxi.), which comprehends the great period which reaches onward from the time of His ascension into heaven to His return again to earth, these several features are blended together into one grand picture. That prophecy is not a prediction only of the end of the world, it is a faithful sketch of human history during the whole of the Messianic period. It is as it were a sketch and study drawn by the hand of the great Master of all the prophetic painters. It describes in a few masterly touches the wars and commotions, the fearful sights, the great signs, the pestilences, famines, earthquakes, internecine slaughter, nation rising against nation, kingdom against kingdom, the false prophets, false teachers, abounding iniquity, the declining love exhibited on the part of the Church towards its Lord, the increasing hate of religion manifested on the part of the world, the afflictions and sufferings of the righteous, and their triumph even in death, all which have characterized, and will continue to characterize, this portion of the world's history, notwithstanding the advent of "the Prince of peace," and in spite of the preaching of the everlasting gospel.

Ezekiel gives a graphic description of the great feast which was to be provided by means of the slaughter of Gog's army for the ravenous birds of prey and the wild beasts of the field (xxxix. 4, 5). The prophet was commanded to invite all the birds and beasts of prey to assemble upon the mountains of Israel to partake of the great sacrifice of human flesh and blood. The animals thus assembled are described as gorged with the flesh and fat of mighty captains and princes of the earth. They drink their blood until they become drunken, and are satisfied to the full at that fearful table of the Lord (xxxix. 20) with the sacrifice prepared by God for their enjoyment (xxxix. 17-20).

The description given by Ezekiel is, however, a repetition, with greater fulness of detail, of the equally vivid picture drawn by the prophet Isaiah (xxxiv.) of the sacrifice in Bozrah, and the great slaughter in the land of Idumea or Edom. In Isaiah's picture the mountains are represented as melted down by the blood of the slain, and the anger of the Lord is spoken of as poured out upon all nations of the earth, and His fury upon all their armies. The same imagery is made use of in the description of the final conflict with the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Revelation.

No Old Testament description of a field of battle (even as presented in the allegorical descriptions of the prophets) would be complete without some mention of the spoil of the foe. Ezekiel in his prophecy speaks first of the spoiling of Israel, and then of the spoiling of the enemies by the Israelites. Similarly Isaiah records the spoils of Israel first as gathered by the Assyrians, and then further describes how the Assyrians were to be spoiled in their turn (xxxiii. 1). Zechariah also predicts the plundering of Jerusalem, and afterwards speaks of the spoil of the foe, consisting in gold, silver, and garments, being gathered up by the men of Judah (Zech. xiv. 1, 2, 14). It is, however, a feature peculiar to Ezekiel that in his prophecy the weapons of the enemies (which are fully described in ch. xxxviii. 4, 5, xxxix. 9, and all of which, with the exception of swords, have long since been discarded by modern armies) are represented as carefully gathered up from the fields of battle, and stored up in order to be used for the useful purpose of firewood. The Israelites, restored to a land the trees of which were cut down by the foe, are represented in the prophecy as provided in this manner with the fuel required for domestic purposes for seven long years.

In one of his graphic predictions of the overthrow of Sennacherib's army, in sight of its long looked-for goal, namely, the holy city Jerusalem, Isaiah depicts Tophet in the valley of Jehoshaphat in front of the city as the place where the great pile of fire and wood would be ignited by the breath of Jehovah in order to consume the bodies of the slain. That natural pit, deep and large as it was, was ordained of old for the purpose, fitly prepared for the haughty king who dared to blaspheme the God of Israel who was his Maker. The Assyrian soldiers, cut down in their ranks like sheaves of corn, were gathered in that spot into the threshing-floor (Micah iv. 12), and laid in their last earthly beds along the sides of that deep valley. Sennacherib's death at Nineveh was the direct result of his discomfiture before Jerusalem (Isa. xxx. 33, xxxviii. 37, 38). In another prophet picture, Joel speaks of the same valley of Jehoshaphat as the place where the final victory should be gained over the enemies of Jehovah, although that prophet does not describe the burial of the foe (Joel iii. 11-17).

In Ezekiel's prophecy, Gog is described as vainly conceiving in his heart that he would get the land of Israel for a possession. No possession in the land of Israel should, however, according to Ezekiel, be accorded to him or his soldiers, but the possession of a place of sepulture (Ezek. xxxix. 11). It is useless to inquire what particular valley the prophet thought of as the special place of burial, whether it was the district lying along the shores of the Dead Sea, the valley of Salt, where Chedorlaomer and his confederate kings were overthrown by Abraham (Gen. xiv. 8-10), and where in later days David, and afterwards Amaziah, won victories over the people of Edom. Ezekiel probably had in view in his ideal description some place within the territory of the Holy Land. Some critics have conjectured the place to have been the valley of Megiddo, where the pious Josiah fell wounded by the Egyptian archers; and others some vale along the side of the Lake of Galilee. It appears, however, more likely that the valley of Hamon-Gog, where the multitude of Gog is described as buried, was probably localized ideally as situated along the Mediterranean or the great sea, the sea of nations.

The translation in the Authorized Version of chap, xxxix. 11, "And it (the valley with its stink) shall stop the noses of the passengers," is the rendering given by some Jewish critics. If that were the meaning, the passage would be somewhat parallel to the description in Joel (ii. 20): "I will remove far off from you the northern army, and I will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the east sea and his hinder part toward the utmost sea: and his stink shall come up and his ill savour shall come, because he hath done great things." But it is more probable that the meaning of the whole passage (xxxix. 11) is: "And it shall come to pass in that day that I will give to Gog a place for burial in Israel, the valley of passers through, east of the sea, and it shall stop (or hem up) those who pass through, and they shall bury there Gog and all his multitude, and they shall call it the Valley of the Multitude of Gog." [15] The multitude of Gog is to be identified with "the multitudes" pourtrayed by Joel "in the valley of decision;" and the result of the decisive judgment there given by the overthrow of the foe is that Jerusalem shall be holy, and strangers shall not pass through her any more (Joel iii. 17; or, in the Hebrew, iv. 17).

For Ezekiel describes the fate of Gog as identical with the fate of all the other enemies of the Lord. He shall pass through the land of Israel, but he shall only be a passenger going through the land, for a grave there shall be his only portion. Hemmed up in the Valley of Multitude, he shall no more return, his armies shall be like mere hordes of passers through. His hosts shall come up like a storm and pass through it, covering the land for a while like a cloud (xxxviii. 9). Men appointed to pass through the land shall bury them, and men shall perpetually pass to and fro over the graves of those avaricious passers through the land. Thus shall Jehovah be magnified. There is, it will be observed, all through the passage a play upon words. Gog and his multitudes, however numerous and mighty they may appear, are but passengers they shall be buried as passengers--passengers shall bury them, and passengers shall walk over their graves.

The burial itself is described as a gigantic undertaking. Notwithstanding the ravenous beasts and birds gathered together to consume the corpses, the burial of the transgressors is represented as occupying seven weary months, during which one might almost use the language of Isaiah: "They shall go forth and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh" (Isa. Lxvi. 24). The burial is described as a tedious and hateful work, though necessary according to the Law: "Whosoever toucheth in the open field one that is slain with a sword, or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days" (Num. xix. 16). Seven months shall all the people of the land be burying the army of Gog, that they may cleanse the land (Ezek. xxxix. 12, 13). Even after that period, for a long and undefined space of time, men shall be set apart and separated for the constant work of burying the bodies which still remain unburied, and for the purpose of collecting together the bones scattered over the fields. Over these remains "signs" were to be set up and erected, in order that the bones thus found might ultimately be conveyed in due course of time to the valley of Hamon-Gog, where a new city to be built should serve by its very name Hamonah (or, "Multitude") to keep in everlasting remembrance the memory of the vengeance taken by the Most High upon the foe, and the salvation granted to the people of Israel.

"Ah! the tumultuous-multitude of many peoples, like the tumult of the seas they are tumultuous; and the roar of nations like the roar of mighty waters they roar! The nations like the roar of mighty waters they roar, but He rebuketh them, and they flee far away, and are chased like the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like whirling-dust before the hurricane. At eventide, behold terror! before morning, it is gone! This is the portion of those who spoil us, and the lot of those who plunder us!" (Isa. xvii. 12-14).

In his description of the destruction of the last enemy of Israel, Ezekiel availed himself largely of the phraseology used in the Book of Exodus in reference to Pharaoh, Israel's first great enemy. If the heart of Pharaoh is represented in the Book of Exodus as hardened by Jehovah, even so does Ezekiel speak of Gog as prepared by the same overruling power to rush madly onward to his own destruction. The writer of Exodus depicts Pharaoh as raised up by Jehovah to lofty estate in order that by his fall the divine power might be more clearly manifested (Ex. ix. 16); and Ezekiel describes God as for a similar reason permitting Gog to exalt himself for a little season. The Egyptians are described in the Book of Exodus as learning at last by the destruction of their king and army that Jehovah was God (Ex. vii. 5, xiv. 4, 18), when God had gotten Him honour upon Pharaoh and all his host in the waters of the Red Sea. Ezekiel similarly says that Jehovah would in the same way be sanctified, known, and honoured in the eyes of many nations by the glorious overthrow of the confederacy of Gog and Magog. "The nations shall know that I am Jehovah" (Ezek. xxxviii. 16, 2 3); and it is specially noted that this should be the case not only with the peoples in the Holy Land, but also with those in the islands (Ezek. xxxix. 6). God's holy name shall be acknowledged in the midst of Israel, "and the nations shall know that I am Jehovah the Holy One in Israel" (Ezek. xxxix. 7, 22, 23, 28).

The various points already noticed all tend to prove that Ezekiel does not describe in the prophecy any special foe of Israel, who has already appeared, or who is to appear at some future period, whose armies are to be literally armed, overthrown, devoured, and buried in the particular manner described. The prophecy is a sort of allegory, in which a picture is presented of the ultimate ruin and utter overthrow of all those enemies who, when Israel is restored to their land, seek for the sake of greed and gain to destroy the people of Jehovah. If the prophecy were regarded as literal, its fulfilment would be in many points impossible, nor can it, regarded as a literal prophecy, be brought into harmony with other predictions which treat of the same period.

On the other hand, regarded as a description of real events, pourtrayed in allegorical language, the picture is grand and impressive. Ezekiel represents, in the thirty-seventh chapter, under the figure of the resurrection of dry bones in the valley, the restoration of Israel from the Babylonish captivity, and points out that the twelve tribes would thenceforth form one nation, to be ultimately ruled by "David, my servant," or the great Messiah. The conversion of Israel forms the subject of the thirty-sixth chapter; and at the close of the thirty-seventh the prophet returns to the same theme, and gives a short but vivid account of Israel's conversion: "My tabernacle shall also be with them; yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the nations shall know that I, Jehovah, do sanctify Israel when my tabernacle shall be in the midst of them for evermore" (xxxvii. 27, 28).

The invasion of Gog is then related as an episode, which is to occur after the restoration and before the final national conversion of Israel, which latter point is again predicted in glowing language at the close of chap, xxxix. Some English interpreters have devised a theory of "breaks" or "gaps" in prophecy; but the hypothesis merely shows how utterly such writers, led astray by their imagination, have failed to comprehend the principles which underlie all prophecy. The history of the human race presented in the sacred writings is simple, but its very simplicity is profound. The universal apostasy of the Gentiles from the true God led to the call of Abraham, and to the selection of Israel, as a holy people. The duty appointed to Israel was to preserve the light amid darkness, and by Israel's instrumentality the nations were at last to be brought back to the true God. But though Israel was the chosen people, guided and taught by Jehovah, their unfaithfulness led to their repeated punishment. Israel was chastised and finally overwhelmed by the world-power, first as ruled over by Assyria, afterwards as swayed by Babylon. But forasmuch as the nations which conquered Israel imagined in their folly that their gods had triumphed over Jehovah, the prophets foretold that Israel should be delivered by divine power out of captivity, and restored to the land of their possession. The restoration of Israel and the subsequent coming of Messiah is the theme of the later prophets. The sufferings of Messiah and the glory that should follow (1 Pet. i. 11), as seen by the prophets of Israel, were viewed as part and parcel of one grand picture. The sufferings of Messiah were to be the "birth throes" of the world, its "regeneration," as our Lord expresses it (Matt. xix. 28). The Messianic age in its length and breadth is identified with the "latter days." That age or dispensation is "the day of the Lord," in the morning of which Messiah comes to suffer, and in the evening of which He returns to reign. In the New Testament picture the great Dragon was seen waiting for the birth of the wondrous Child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. The Dragon's expectations were thwarted, for the Child when born was caught up to God, and His throne (Rev. xii.). Thus closed the first half of the Seven Times of the Gentiles, which began with the victory of the world-power over Israel, and to the eyes of the world closed with the victory of that power over Christ. Por the triumph of Christ at His resurrection and ascension was a triumph only witnessed by a few. The Dragon, though foiled in his attempt to overcome Christ, is not, however, yet wholly vanquished. He still makes war with the remnant of the woman's seed which keep the commandments of God, and hold the testimony of Jesus Christ. The second portion of "the Times of the Gentiles," or the mystical "time, times and a half," is the period during which this war lasts; and the conflict began when Christ ascended from Mount Olivet, and will not be ended until He shall be manifested as King of kings and Lord of lords.

Ezekiel beheld only part of this scene of conflict and victory. But the portion he was permitted to see was a picture complete in itself. He saw Israel restored from captivity, he saw them settled in a land of unwalled villages. He next saw the foe advancing from all quarters, hoping to gain an easy victory. He was permitted to behold "the conclusion of the matter," the overthrow of the foe, the burial of the mighty, the salvation of Israel, the conversion of the world, and the Messiah seated on His throne! The picture was one which the prophet could fully comprehend. It was drawn upon the lines of the old dispensation. He was permitted further to behold the hidden springs of human action, the reality which often lies deep below the surface. The hostility of the world against Israel often sprang, not so much from hostility towards God, as from the love of gain. As Christ more than once emphatically points out, God and Mammon ever compete together for human souls. Riches, money, wealth, is often the real idol which men worship. Religion is used as a stalking horse, behind which as a shelter money is greedily sought to be acquired. "Money, money, money!" this is the cry which awakens the nations! The wail of Demetrius the silversmith (Acts xix. 24ff.) over his foreseen and sadly dreaded losses, is the shout that always collects together a sordid mob who would hinder the progress of truth. From all parts they gather, they come; they scent money from far as keenly as the vulture scents the carrion it loves to devour. It was the prosperity and wealth of restored Israel, often exaggerated by report, which attracted the cupidity and aroused the animosity of their foes, whether Persian, or Grecian, or Roman. But had the Israelites not been unmindful of the Rock that begat them, of the God that formed them (Deut. xxxii. 18), how should one have chased a thousand and two put ten thousand to flight? (Deut. xxxii. 30.) Israel's forgetfulness of God at one time, their rejection of Messiah at another, caused that people to be left helpless under the assaults of their enemies both ancient and modern. Stripped of their real defence, their strength gone, Israel, whether in the Land of Promise in unwalled villages, or scattered among the nations, has been plundered and spoiled by foes from every quarter, from the north and the south, and the east and the west.

But a brighter day will, we trust, soon dawn. The days of oppression are well-nigh past. The day of Israel's conversion is to come. Ezekiel's prophecy opens with the restoration of Israel from the Babylonish captivity, and reaches on to the time of the end. It does not delineate all the sad events of Jewish history; it sums them up in one picture. There may be another restoration of Israel to the Land of Promise, and such a restoration is probable, but Ezekiel does not speak in this prophecy of that restoration. His prophecy is not unfulfilled. It has had many a fulfilment in the oppression used against the poor Jew, and in the vengeance that by Divine Providence has fallen upon his oppressors. There are no grounds whatever to expect a more full accomplishment in the future. There is no reason to expect the rise of another such confederacy as that of Gog and Magog. At all events "the mission of Russia" is certainly not portrayed in the prophecy.

There is indeed a portion of Ezekiel's prophecy which awaits a future fulfilment, namely, that which speaks of the blessed day of grace and glory. Israel is to be converted; the Jews will shake off the sleep of forgetfulness, and once more remember their Lord. The promises, the fulfilment of which was stayed, because when Christ "came unto His own, they that were His own received Him not" (John i. 11), are yet to have their full accomplishment. The "mystery" which the apostle reveals is that "a hardening in part hath befallen Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles" be come in, and so all Israel shall he saved, even as it is written "There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer; He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob" (Rom. xi. 25, 26). And "if the casting away of them was the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead?" (Rom. xi. 15). "The kingdom of the world shall become the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever" (Rev. xi. 15).

Notes & References

1. See, for example, the remarks in The National Restoration and Conversion of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, by the Rev. Walter Chamberlain, M.A. (London: Wertheim & Macintosh, 1854), p. 384, which it will be sufficient to cite as a sample out of many similar. Mr. Chamberlain maintains that while Germany, France, and Russia, with Italy and Greece, shall all be found among the enemies of the Lord in the final struggle, "England, that modern Tarshish, will be found in the Lord, and her mighty armaments waiting to do His will. God be praised, the efforts of our faithful ministers of Christ and the Protestant energies of her people, blessed of God, will be crowned with honour and success"!! Mr. Chamberlain's work exhibits more reading than the most of such publications, though the learning is sadly misapplied. The above is a fair specimen of the spirit which too often characterizes our popular theology. England is viewed as par excellence the holy nation, God is spoken of as peculiarly her God, and the salvation of the nations is not unfrequently spoken of as if it depended upon their adoption of the religious opinions peculiar to the English people.

2. The Slavonic word Rus, or Russ, originated, it would appear, through the Finnish appellation given to Sweden (Ruotsi). The Old Swedish *** (rother; Old Norse, rōdhr], rowing, navigation, ***, or ***, rowers, seafarers, is connected with the same. In Northern Norway, Rōssfolk (Rōrs- or Rōds-folk) still means fishers that assemble near the shore during the fishing season. In process of time the signification of the term was lost, and it was treated as a proper name. The name Ros (***) properly belonged to the Swedish settlers in Russia, who, though originally rulers, were ultimately overwhelmed by the Slavonic element. For centuries the influence of the Scandinavians in Russia can be distinctly traced. The Scandinavian designation Ros was naturally transliterated into Greek by the Byzantine writers as ***. But the latter fact cannot be regarded as establishing any connection between that word and that found in Ezekiel. Between the Russ of the ninth century after Christ and the Rosh (LXX. ***) of Ezekiel, there intervenes at least some 1400 years. The whole question of the Scandinavian origin of the name has been ably discussed from a linguistic and historical standpoint in the lectures delivered in 1876, in Oxford, by Dr. Vilhelm Thomsen, Professor of Comparative Philology in the University of Copenhagen, published in English under the title, The Relations between Ancient Russia and Scandinavia, and the Origin of the Russian State, Parker & Co., Oxford and London, 1877. See especially pp. 92-97.

3. The LXX., Syrnm., Theod. regard the word as a proper name. But the pointed Hebrew text, the Targum, Aquila, Jerome, are authorities on the other side. Smend appeals to 2 Kings xxv. 18, 1 Chron. xxvii. 5, and to Ewald's Gr.  287. 1. The latter can be examined in Mr. Kennedy's excellent English edition of Ewald's Syntax of the Hebrew Language (T. & T. Clark, 1879). See Dr. Rudolf Smend, Der Prophet Ezechiel erldart (Leipzig 1880), in the Kurzgef assies Exegetisch. Handbuch zum A. T.

4. The English reader may need to be informed that Rosh and Rash are identical words, the vowel difference here being of no importance. The Hebrew word Rosh, which signifies a head, has its plural Rashim.

5. See Schrader, Keilinschriften und das Alte Test., 2nd ed. p. 427; Friedrieh Delitzsch, Wo lag das Parodies ? pp. 246, 247.

6. See Delitzsch, Paradies, as before.

7. See George Smith's History of Assurbanipal translated from the Cuneiform Inscriptions (Williams & Norgate, 1871), pp. 97, 98. Also Delitzsch, p. 247.

8. See Smith's Assurbanipal, p. 65 ff., and many other places; Records of the Past, vol. ix. p. 46 S. Friedrich Delitzsch in his Paradies, p. 245, refers to Asarh. ii. 6, in which inscription mention is made of Te-usli-pa-a, and the land of Gri-mir-ra-a, and the statement is made by Asarhaddon that Teushpa, the ruler of that distant land, was annihilated with his whole army. The same inscription gives an account of that Assyrian monarch's expeditions against Cilicia (Hi-lak-ki) near the land of Tabal. Meshek and Tubal are certainly to be identified with the Muski and Tabali so often spoken of in Assyrian inscriptions. See Delitzsch, p. 250.

9. E.g. the distinguished missionary, Rev. Joseph Wolff, LL.D., in his Researches and Missionary Labours, 2nd ed., London, Nisbet, 1835, see p. 159, etc.

10. Chamberlain, National Restoration of Israel, pp. 333, 349.

11. The Chebar, or Kebar, was in Babylonia. See Delitzsch's Paradies, p. 48; Schrader, Keilinschriften, p. 424, and my article on "The Site of Paradise" in the Nineteenth Century for Oct. 1882.

12. The Authorized Version inserts a "not" in the interrogation, and thus makes the answer expected a distinct affirmative. The Revised Version omits the "not," and renders: "Art thou he of whom I spake?" In the latter case the language is that of wonder and astonishment. The Hebrew has the simple interrogative, which may be rendered in either way. See note on p. 119.

13. Chamberlain, in his Restoration of Israel, p. 234, etc., tries to make out that the interrogative used in the Hebrew "conveys the force of indignant disapproval," and seeks to uphold his views by references to Glassius, Philologia Sacra, and to Noldius' Concord. Particular win. It is quite true that the simple interrogative here used in the text may be so employed. But, the "indignant disapproval" is in every case conveyed in the context, and does not lie in the use of the interrogative. Noldius' Ooncordantia points out that the particle in question is frequently used to denote the simple question in cases where a questioner is uncertain what answer he may receive. The same particle is used both when a negative answer, and also when an affirmative answer is expected. It is useless to cite passages, as they are given in sufficient numbers in every Hebrew Lexicon of value.

14. See the Brampton Lectures on Zechariah, where the numerous absurdities are pointed out which beset any attempt to explain literally the prophecy of Zech. xiv.

15. The rendering of the Revised Version is substantially the same. We have rendered a little more literally in order to avoid ambiguity.