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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Ezekiel 39

 

 

Verses 1-3

God’s Judgment on Gog.

“And you, son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say, Behold I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. And I will turn you about and lead you on (shshw), and will cause you to come from the uttermost parts of the north, and I will bring you on the mountains of Israel. And I will smite your bow out of your left hand, and will cause your arrows to fall out of your right hand.”

For the name and description see on Ezekiel 38:2. Once again it is emphasised that Gog is under Yahweh’s control. Nothing can happen outside God’s remit. The meaning of the verb shshw is unknown. The versions support ‘lead on’ (Ezekiel 38:4 has instead ‘put hooks in your jaws’ which implies the same thing). Again ‘the uttermost parts of the north’ are stressed (compare Ezekiel 38:6; Ezekiel 38:15), the lands shrouded in mystery from which anything can come. And the mountains of Israel are the backbone of Israel. So the picture is of the mysterious Gog, descending from an equally mysterious region, at the instigation of Yahweh, onto the backbone of Israel.

That is then followed by the shattering of his weapons, that is, his strength, by the hand of Yahweh. He will be left helpless and defenceless, as he previously thought that Israel was (Ezekiel 38:11). His bow and arrows will be smitten from his hands. It is noteworthy that Gog is depicted as carrying a bow. The same was true of the rider on the white horse in Revelation 6:2 who symbolised false religion and the deceitfulness of Satan. In Psalms 120:4 lying lips and a deceitful tongue are likened to ‘the sharp arrows of the mighty’, and both the psalmist and Hosea speak of ‘the deceitful bow’ (Psalms 78:57; Hosea 7:16). Thus the bow, with which men are taken by surprise and brought down, was seen as a weapon of deceit, carried by the great deceiver.


Verse 4-5

“You will fall on the mountains of Israel, you, and all your hordes, and the peoples who are with you, and I will give you to the ravenous birds of every kind, and to the beasts of the field, to be devoured. You will fall on the open field, for I have spoken it, says the Lord Yahweh.”

The mountains of Israel were the backbone of Israel. They were its strength, but they were also the site of Israel’s abominations. Thus the hordes of darkness would be broken on them, and it was fitting that those mountains that had been used for idolatry and sinful abominations, should now be the recipient of the dead bodies of those evil hordes, just as previously they had received the bodies of the slain when God punished Israel (Ezekiel 6:5; Ezekiel 6:13).

‘And I will give you to the ravenous birds of every kind, and to the beasts of the field, to be devoured.’ Compare Ezekiel 32:4; Ezekiel 29:5; Ezekiel 31:13; Jeremiah 7:33; Jeremiah 16:4; Jeremiah 19:7; Jeremiah 34:20. See also Revelation 19:21. This was considered to be an horrific death (see Psalms 79:2). Left unburied to have their bodies mauled and their bones picked by scavenging bird and scavenging beast.

‘You will fall on the open field.’ The open field was the description given to areas away from cities, outside in the open away from men’s dwellings (Ezekiel 16:5; Ezekiel 29:5; Ezekiel 32:4; Ezekiel 33:27 (where it parallels ‘wastes’); see also Leviticus 14:7; 2 Samuel 11:11; Numbers 19:16; Jeremiah 9:22). Their mission to capture the cities of Israel will have proved a total failure. God’s people will be safe.

‘For I have spoken it, says the Lord Yahweh.’ Their destruction will occur because God has said it and determined it.


Verse 6

“And I will send a fire on Magog, and on those who dwell securely on the isles/coastlands, and they will know that I am Yahweh.”

We note now an expansion of God’s judgments. The lands of those who attacked his people will likewise suffer (compare the vivid picture in Judges 5:28-30). They thought that they were safe because of their massive forces, and awaited the return of the armies with great booty. But instead they will have to recognise the power of Yahweh’s judgments. The furthest peoples will be involved. God’s judgments are far reaching and total.

The isles and coastlands (the peoples across the seas) have not previously been mentioned. Along with all previously mentioned the whole of Ezekiel’s distant world has now been included in the catastrophe.


Verse 7

“And I will make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel, nor will I allow my holy name to be profaned any more. And the nations will know that I am Yahweh, the Holy One in Israel.”

God’s holy name, that is His own righteousness, purity and ‘otherness’ will by all this be made known to His people. They will recognise Him for what He is and that the cry of their hearts has been fulfilled, and that evil has been destroyed (compare Revelation 6:10 - which was not so much a cry for vengeance as a longing for God’s righteous judgments to prevail). The nations brought to judgment will also recognise Who and What He is, ‘the Holy One in Israel’.

‘The Holy One in Israel’. That is the One set apart from, and above and beyond all others; unapproachable except to those He calls; unique, all-powerful, and essentially righteous in all His dealings see Isaiah 57:15). And Israel is His dwellingplace (compare Isaiah 60:14). They are His temple. We can compare here ‘the Holy One of Israel’ (2 Kings 19:22; Psalms 71:22; Psalms 78:41; Psalms 89:18; Isaiah 1:4; Isaiah 5:19; Isaiah 5:24; Isaiah 10:20; Isaiah 12:6; Isaiah 17:7; Isaiah 29:19; Isaiah 30:11-12; Isaiah 30:15; Isaiah 31:1; Isaiah 37:23; Isaiah 41:14; Isaiah 41:16; Isaiah 41:20; Isaiah 43:3; Isaiah 43:14; Isaiah 45:11; Isaiah 47:4; Isaiah 48:17; Isaiah 49:7; Isaiah 54:5; Isaiah 55:5; Isaiah 60:9; Isaiah 60:14; Jeremiah 50:29; Jeremiah 51:5) where the emphasis is on His might, His total superiority, and His purity and righteousness as judge.


Verse 8

“Behold it comes and it will be done,” says the Lord Yahweh. “This is the day of which I have spoken.”

The uniqueness of this day comes out here. It is the final day of which Yahweh has spoken (Isaiah 2:12; Joel 1:15; Joel 2:1; Joel 2:11; Joel 2:31; Joel 3:14; compare Zechariah 14:1), in contrast with all the other ‘Days of Yahweh’ on different nations occurring at different times, which are seen as foretastes of what is to come (Babylon- Isaiah 13:1-22; Jeremiah 46:10; Lamentations 2:22; Zephaniah 1:1 to Zephaniah 2:3 in context with Ezekiel 2:4-10.Edom- Isaiah 34:1-17.Israel- Ezekiel 13:1-7; Amos 5:18-20 with 27). And all are assured that it will assuredly come.


Verse 9-10

“And those who dwell in the cities of Israel will go forth, and will make fires of the weapons and burn them, both the shields and the bucklers, the bows and the arrows, the handstaves and the spears. And they will make fires of them for seven years, so that they will take no wood from the field, nor cut down any from the forests. For they will make fires of the weapons, and they will spoil those who spoiled them, and rob those who robbed them, says the Lord Yahweh.”

Note that Israel were all this time safe in theirunwalledcities (compare Psalms 31:21; Psalms 127:1; Isaiah 26:1). Yahweh was their refuge (Jeremiah 16:19; Deuteronomy 33:27; 2 Samuel 22:3; Psalms 46:1; Psalms 57:1; Psalms 59:16 and often). The huge forces had not been able to harm them. They were invulnerable. But now they can safely go out and collect up the weapons, and there will be so many that it will take seven years to burn them. We need not ask how many of the weapons would burn (the inflammable ones, made largely of wood, are mentioned). The emphasis is on the greatness of the victory, demonstrated by the huge quantity of weapons, the fact that Israel now had no need for such weapons, and the fact that what their enemies had intended to harm them with had become a blessing to them. The spoilers had become the spoiled. God’s people have triumphed. As mentioned above seven years is a God-ordained period and a picture of divine completeness. In the end it is the people of God who will triumph.


Verses 9-16

The Clearing Up Operation and the Cleansing Of The Land (Ezekiel 39:9-16).

Concentration on the detail here can obscure the significance of the whole. The main points being brought out are the massiveness of what has to be dealt with, and the importance of making the land totally ‘clean’. Attention is drawn to the vast amounts of armour, the huge number of bodies picked clean by the scavengers (Ezekiel 39:17-20), and the awful judgment that has come upon the nations because they trifled with God and His people. Note the emphasis on the number seven, the number of divine completeness (throughout the whole of the Near East) (Ezekiel 39:9; Ezekiel 39:12; Ezekiel 39:14). This brings out the idealistic nature of the passage. The prophet’s aim is not to bring out how long it will take as a matter of record, but the divine completeness of the judgment.

Another major point is that what is left of the nations will be buried. Not here dry bones that will live after the battle (Ezekiel 37:1-14), but bones that will be buried forever in the valley of Hamon-Gog, ‘the valley of the hordes of Gog’ (Ezekiel 39:11), which will ever bear witness to the fact that for these there will no resurrection to life. Note the emphasis on the fact that all will be buried (Ezekiel 39:13-15), not one will be left uninterred. Then all that will be left is God’s people in a pure land (Ezekiel 39:16). All will have been done away.

This was Ezekiel’s way of presenting the final triumph of the people of God and the judgment of the nations opposed to God. From now on for ever the people of God will rest in safety and purity. All tears will have ceased. The last enemy has been destroyed.


Verse 11

“And it will come about in that day that I will give to Gog a place for burial in Israel, the valley of those who pass through in front of (or ‘to the east of’) the sea. And it will stop those who pass through. And there they will bury Gog and all his hordes, and they will call it the valley of Hamon-gog.”

If the sea is the Dead Sea then the burial place would be seen as outside the limits of the land as promised to Israel (east of the Dead Sea), although within that occupied by Israel. The true Israel would be made totally ‘clean’. The valley ‘will stop those who pass through’ either because being a burial ground it will be avoided, or because they stop in awe as they consider its significance as ‘the valley of the hordes of Gog’ (Hamon-gog). We can compare here the equally vivid description in Isaiah 66:24 of those who go forth to look on the wicked dead. Both are pictorial representations of a greater reality. They are bringing out that for eternity the great Judgment Day of God and its consequences will be a warning to His people.


Verses 12-14

“And seven months will the house of Israel be burying them, that they may cleanse the land. Yes, all the people of the land will bury them. And it will bring honour on them (be to them a renown) in the day that I will be glorified,” says the Lord Yahweh. “And they will set apart men with the continual employment of passing through the land to bury those who pass through, who remain on the face of the land, to cleanse it. At the end of seven months they will search.”

Again the emphasis is on the huge number of dead. At first the whole of Israel will be involved in burying the multitude of the dead for ‘seven months’, that is, the divinely appointed time necessary. Then the task of clearing up the remainder will be handed over to specialists, ‘the passers through’. These latter will be specifically employed on a continual basis for the task of searching out and ensuring the burial of all the bones picked clean by the scavengers which have been missed in the above operation. (We are reminded of the assiduous searching out of leaven at the feast of the Passover - see Exodus 12:19).

Note that the purpose is not to give them a decent burial but to get rid of the bones and corpses of the accursed of God so that the land will be ‘clean’ (Deuteronomy 21:23). The whole purpose of the operation is the purity of God’s people which must be the concern of the whole people. While such bodies remained unburied the land was ‘unclean’ and ‘defiled’ . The everlasting Israel must be free from all taint and totally pure for their everlasting future.

And by these actions great honour will come on Israel, for they will be having their part in the great glory brought on the name of God by what has happened in the defeat of the forces of darkness in ‘the day that He is glorified’.


Verse 15-16

“And the passers through the land will pass through, and when any sees a man’s bone, then he will set up a marker by it, until the buriers have buried it in the valley of Hamon-gog. And Hamonah (multitude) will also be the name of a city. Thus will they cleanse the land.”

The passers through will continue with their employment until every bone is buried. There are the searchers and the buriers. (With their stress on the importance f ‘cleanness’ such searchers and buriers were probably part of everyday life of Israel). Possibly Hamonah was to be where they set up their living quarters (‘city’ could mean anything from a tent encampment to a large city).

These verses depict the thoroughness of Yahweh’s judgment. None will escape in the least degree.


Verse 17

“And you, son of man, thus says the Lord Yahweh, Speak to the birds of every kind, and to every beast of the field. ‘Assemble yourselves and come. Gather yourselves on every side to my sacrifice that I sacrifice for you, even a great sacrifice on the mountains of Israel, that you may eat flesh and drink blood’.”

This is the feast of the wild beasts. They are called together to partake of it (compare Revelation 19:17-18). And we are called on to consider this great gathering of scavengers descending on the prey. It likens the destruction of Gog and his forces to a great sacrificial feast. And it is for the scavengers. No man would be told to drink blood. That makes it the more dreadful. But this is a sacrifice fit only for the wild beasts and birds. The sight of vultures circling dead bodies and scavengers tearing at a carcass would be a common sight in Israel. It is not in itself glorious but horrific. The very thought of it would make men shudder. It spoke of the most ignominious of deaths. But it was to be the fate of the wicked. Compare Ezekiel 32:4; Ezekiel 29:5; Ezekiel 31:13; Jeremiah 7:33; Jeremiah 16:4; Jeremiah 19:7; Jeremiah 34:20. The idea of ‘eating flesh and drinking blood’ is, however, elsewhere metaphorical for enjoying the fruits of victory.


Verses 17-20

The Scavengers Are Called to a Great Sacrificial Feast (Ezekiel 39:17-20).

A huge emphasis in this chapter is on the purification of Israel and the awful fate of the wicked. Both are again involved here, with the emphasis on the latter. The scavengers clean up the land, but here they are also seen as attending a sacrificial feast in which they partake of the offering, and the offering is the wicked dead.


Verse 18-19

“And you will eat fat until you are full, and drink blood until you are drunk, of my sacrifice which I have sacrificed for you.”

Nothing could have been designed to make Ezekiel shudder more. The eating of the fat and the drinking of the blood of sacrifices were forbidden to men. And here it is the blood of men. But here it is the wild beasts who partake. It stresses the awfulness of the fate of these people. And the beasts will be more than sated.


Verse 20

“And you will be filled at my table with horses and chariots, with mighty men and with all the men of war, says the Lord Yahweh.”

That great and proud host that went forth to battle with shouts of triumph and certainty of spoils, has now become a feast for the wild beasts and scavenger birds. It stresses their inglorious end. And it is all at the word of the Lord Yahweh. When the world triumphs and magnifies itself before the people of God, they need to consider their end. Whatever the people of God may suffer, it is nothing like this. Again the language is symbolic. Real life scavengers would hardly be interested in chariots. These are judgment figures.


Verse 21

“And I will set my glory among the nations, and all the nations will see my judgment which I have executed, and my hand which I have laid on them. So the house of Israel will know that I am Yahweh their God from that day, and forward. And the nations will know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity, because they trespassed against me, and I hid my face from them. So I gave them into the hand of their adversaries, and they fell all of them by the sword. I did to them according to their uncleanness and according to their trespasses, and I hid my face from them.”

Three primary points are made here. Firstly that the judgment on Gog will bring God glory in the eyes of the nations who have been judged, secondly that it will bring home to Israel that He is Yahweh their God, and thirdly that the nations will be made to recognise why Israel really went into captivity, that it was because of their sinfulness and unfaithfulness to the covenant, and not because He could not protect them. Thus God will be vindicated.

‘I will set my glory among the nations, and all the nations will see my judgment which I have executed, and my hand which I have laid on them.’ God’s glory will have been set among the nations by His judgments, which the nations will be forced to recognise. They will therefore have to acknowledge His supremity, and bow the knee to Him.

‘So the house of Israel will know that I am Yahweh their God from that day, and forward.’ The true people of God will have had demonstrated to them that He is truly their God Who watches over them and cares for them for ever.

‘And the nations will know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity, because they trespassed against me, and I hid my face from them.’ God’s vindication and protection of His people will evidence the fact to the nations that the captivity was not due to His not having been able to protect His people, but to His having to deal with their sinfulness and rebellion by judgment. They would recognise that that was why He had hidden His face from them, and not because of His being unable to help them.

‘So I gave them into the hand of their adversaries, and they fell all of them by the sword. I did to them according to their uncleanness and according to their trespasses, and I hid my face from them.’ The reason for God’s behaviour towards Israel, and the reason why He hid His face from them, is now detailed. What had happened to them in the destruction of Jerusalem and of their country had been due to their behaviour. They had made themselves unclean by their idolatry and casual attitude towards God and holy things, and they had trespassed against God’s laws and covenant.


Verses 21-29

The Vindication of Yahweh (Ezekiel 39:21-29).

Ezekiel sees the future in terms of the vindication of Yahweh. He will be glorified in the eyes of the nations when they see His judgments. Israel will also know that He is Yahweh. For having punished them He will again gather them and His Spirit will be poured out on them. And their deliverance will bring home to the nations that He is all-powerful and supreme.

This would begin when Cyrus, His shepherd who did not know Him (Isaiah 44:28 to Isaiah 45:4) decreed the return to Jerusalem and the building of the temple (Ezra 1), it would continue when Nehemiah once again established Jerusalem as a ruling city, and on through history as Israel grew in stature and expanded with the exiles returning, until the coming of the Messiah, Who having established the beginnings of the Kingly Rule of God would be cut off (Daniel 9:26) and smitten (Zechariah 12:7), and the Spirit would be poured out on His people. This would then lead on to the growth of the Kingly Rule of God and its final triumph, and the final judgment. All this lies behind the prophecies of Ezekiel and are their fulfilment.


Verses 25-27

‘Therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh, Now I will reverse the captivity of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel, and I will be jealous for my holy name. And after they have borne their shame, and all their trespasses by which they have trespassed against me, then they will dwell securely in the land and none will make them afraid, when I have brought them again from the peoples, and gathered them from their enemies’ lands, and am sanctified in them in the sight of the nations.”

The literal text is ‘and they will bear their shame ---’ but in translation it is necessary to bring out the sense. The point is that they will bear their shame and then afterwards will be brought into the land. Hebrew tenses do not express strict chronology.

In this final summary God indicates once again the restoration of His people. He will reverse the situation He had brought about, and He will do it because He is intent to maintain the honour of His name (He is ‘jealous’ for His name). Once they have borne their sins to the fullest necessary extent (compare Isaiah 40:1-2) they will be released from their captivity and brought again to their land. Stress is made on the fact that this will be of the whole house of Israel. All twelve tribes will be restored. The Bible knows nothing of ‘lost tribes’. Thus ‘Israel’ will now be limited to those who return and those who acknowledge their part in that return by their behaviour in their one time exile, by looking on Israel as their true home (as Daniel and Nehemiah did. They had returned in their hearts even though their positions would not allow them to return).

‘Then they will dwell securely in the land and none will make them afraid.’ This will be the final result. It was partly achieved in the first restoration, but its greater fulfilment awaits the final days of deliverance as depicted in these chapters, when His people will dwell together in God’s greater land of which the earthly is bit a shadow. History is seen as a combined whole. This is the nature of Biblical prophecy.

‘And am sanctified in them in the sight of the nations.’ The purpose of their deliverance and restoration is so that God might be ‘set apart’ in men’s eyes as the One Who is Almighty and can do anything by His power and yet as the One Who is righteous and fully punishes sin.


Verse 28-29

“And they will know that I am Yahweh their God, in that I caused them to go into captivity among the nations, and have gathered them to their own land. And I will leave none of them there any more. Nor will I hide my face any more from them. For I (will) have poured out my Spirit on the house of Israel, says he Lord Yahweh.”

After the great encounter with Gog is over, God’s people will dwell in safety. They will remember all that God has done and recognise His goodness and glory and holiness. They will know that He is Yahweh. Note the three promises, 1) I will leave none of them there any more. 2) I will not hide my face from them any more. 3) I will have poured out my Spirit on the house of Israel.

These promises bring out the nature of the future ‘Israel’ as seen in Ezekiel’s eyes, and summarise the message of his book. Israel finally is made up of those who have gathered to God, are committed to Him and are thus His people. He expressed it in the only way he then could.

‘I will leave none of them there any more.’ Those who are His true people will have left the nations and been united with the people of God under God’s Kingly Rule. They will be one together in their covenant with God. They will look to Him only. The nations will trouble them no more. They will have been suitably dealt with. The enemies of darkness will once and for all have been eliminated.

‘I will not hide my face from them any more.’ Their fellowship with God will be total and complete. His face will always be turned towards them, and they in turn will look to Him, and this will be so for ever. They will walk in the light of Yahweh.

‘I (will) have poured out my Spirit on the house of Israel.’ The perfect tense is used to demonstrate that this has already occurred in the mind of God, but it looks to the future. His people will be those on whom He has poured out His Spirit. They will be the true Israel, spending eternity in the presence of God. They will be those on whom He has poured out His Spirit, which incorporates the church, the new Israel, the ‘Israel of God’, and will be distinguished by the fact that they ‘have a new heart and a new Spirit,’ a softened heart, an obedient heart, and they will delight in doing only His will (Ezekiel 36:26-28). Thus will have begun the everlasting kingdom. God will finally have triumphed.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Ezekiel 39:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/ezekiel-39.html. 2013.

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