Purpose Of This Article
1. I believe that the ancient prophecy of Ezekiel 38 – 39 will unfold in this generation. This huge war in the Middle East will likely have dramatic impacts on other places in the world including the United States.
2. Recommend actions which the United States Government and other Federal governments in the West need to undertake to minimize the potential affects of such a war.
3. Recommend actions and attitudes of believers in Jesus Christ to ameliorate and respond to the affects of such a war locally, nationally and internationally.
Sometime after 592 B.C., a man named Ezekiel wrote a series of prophecies which he claimed were from God. These messages were later codified into a book which was named for the author “Ezekiel”. It now appears in both Jewish and Christian texts as a part of canon scripture.
Ezekiel was a Jewish exile who was displaced from Judah to Babylon along with several thousand other Jews by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar. Ezekiel became a biblical prophet who authored the ancient text which bears his name and that we are discussing in this article.
The main point of this article is to propose the imminent occurrences of the prophecies in Ezekiel 38-39 because the military, political and religious environments all seem to be lining up at the present time.
I. The key questions are
1. Who is involved in this war?
2. When does this war occur?
3. What are the implications of these prophecies upon the nations of the world?
4. What God is saying through these prophecies to believers (His people)?
Who is Involved in this War?
Ezekiel proposes that a confederation of nations with names including
1) Magog 2) Rosh 3) Meshech 4) Tubal 5) Gomer 6) Beth-Togarmah
7) Persia 8) Cush 9) Put
will come together and attack Israel and will ultimately be decimated and defeated on the hills of Israel.
Who are these nations?
A detailed discussion of the controversies and alternate views of specific nations related to specific terms is contained in Appendix A. The list in this text is the most likely application for each name in the author’s judgment.
1. Magog - Russians of Scythian origin located north of the Black Sea and Caucus Mountains.
2. Rosh - geographic area of central eastern Russia including what is now Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and possibly Afghanistan.
3. Meshech - Turkey and possibly Azerbaijan
4. Tubal - SE side of the Black Sea (Turkey)
5. Gomer - Germany and/or select eastern European countries including possibly the Balkans.
6. Beth Togarmah - Turkey and/or Armenia
7. Persia - Iran
8. Cush - Ethiopia and/or Sudan
9. Put - Libya
There are three options if this attacking confederation is real
1. It happened in the past
2. It is presently materializing
3. It will occur at some point in the future
Does Ezekiel describe an ancient or long past invasion?
No such expeditionary force is documented in history.
Yes - present day headlines would suggest the possibility of many of these players coming together in a proactive invasion force. Russia, Iran, Sudan, the “stan” nations, and Libya could easily be imagined to unilaterally come together under existing political and diplomatic posturing. Turkey, Germany, Armenia, Poland, Eastern Europe, and Ethiopia are another matter. For any or all of them to agree to be part of an attacking force alliance configurations, treaties and political circumstances would need to change to a greater or lesser extent to imagine them as a part of such an invasion force.
Could this all happen in the more distant future? Yes - other parts of the prophecy seem to suggest changes in circumstances before everything lines up to focus perfectly with the total prophetic picture. The changes are likely months and years away and not decades. I will discuss those other changes to be prophetically aligned later in this paper. (see section II.)
II. When Does This War Occur According To Ezekiel?
The following points bear on the timing of this war:
1. In the latter years after having been scattered to many nations of the earth, the Jews will be regathered. While the nation was gone from Palestine, the land became utterly desolate and a wasteland. Now Israel is in the process of being regathered back to the land of Israel. Ezekiel 38:8
2. The land (the real estate) is in process of being renewed into a land of milk and honey. Exodus 3:8; Ezekiel 38:8,12; 39:14
3. The Israelites are dwelling in the land in peace and safety. Ezekiel 38:8,11,14
4. The Israelites are dwelling in unwalled cities. Ezekiel 38:11
5. Israel is wealthy with gold, silver, cattle, goods and great spoil. Ezekiel 38:12,13
6. The text contains repeated references to “latter or last days (years)” Ezekiel 38:8,16,17
7. A total and complete regathering of all the Jews in the world back to Israel will occur after this great war Ezekiel 39:25,27,28
8. A contextual hint about timing is offered in Ezekiel 37 and 40, where the regathering is described in graphic detail in Ezekiel 37 as “dry bones” and the process of renewing life for the nation. Chapter 40 and following discusses the existence of a special temple with amazing features. In general terms, Ezekiel 37 has occurred but Ezekiel 40 certainly has not and nothing is in view to suggest that it is close to happening. Ezekiel 38-39 is an “in between” event.
9. The nation of Israel has a whole new national character as one people. They will not be of the northern kingdom (Israel) and the southern kingdom (Judah) as was true in much of their history. That emotional, political and ethnocentric distinction will have totally disappeared. They will be just one people – the Jews. (Ezekiel 36:6-38; 37:15-23)
Features That Confuse The Determination Of Timing Of A War That We Are Asserting To Be Near At Hand.
Probably the most prominent description of Israel in these chapters is that they are dwelling in safety. That is asserted three times forcefully. Ezekiel 38:8,11,14.
In the Spring and Summer of 2009 can it be said that Israel is living in peaceful co-existence with it’s many neighbors and enemies?
In my judgment the answer is “no”. I think something of a large political environmental change must occur before it can be said that Israel is living in peace and safety.
The second question as to indeterminant timing relates to the kinds of weapons and armaments that Ezekiel characterizes this invading army as possessing.
- Horses and horsemen with large and small shields, swords – Ezekiel 38:4
- Shields and helmets - Ezekiel 38:5
- All of them riding horses, a great horde - Ezekiel 38:15
- Every man’s sword against his brother - Ezekiel 38:21
- Strike your bow and arrows - Ezekiel 39:3
- The above weapons burned as fuel - Ezekiel 39:9
This does not sound like the weaponry of modern warfare.
1. an ancient battle
2. modern military forces armed in a 19th century or earlier way
or just the case of
3. Ezekiel trying to describe warfare from an earlier time of 2600 years ago.
My assumption is that the third point is correct although a modern army might use cavalry and other non-conventional weaponry in rough terrain.
These two timing issues will be resolved and perhaps even quickly if the Ezekiel 38 – 39 war is at hand.
III. Features of this War as Ezekiel Described Them.
1. God is a very active presence in this war. Ezekiel 38:1-4, 16, 19,21-23; 39:1-8, 11,12,17,19-25, 27-29
2. Israel is apparently the sole target of this invading army Ezekiel 38:8,14,16,18,19; 39:2,4,9,11,12,17,22,23,25,29
3. The invaders are apparently coming for plunder of all kinds Ezekiel 38:12-13
4. The attacking force is a confederation of nine to twenty nations as discussed earlier and in Appendix A. The confederation is led by Russia and a dominant leader who is referred to repeatedly as Gog.
5. All of these nations are Islamic except for Russia, Germany, Armenia, Eastern Europe, and Ethiopia if some or all of them are included Ezekiel 38:2,3,5,6,8 and 39:1,2
6. Five sixth (a) of this vast army will be destroyed on the “mountains” of Israel Ezekiel 38:15-23; 39:1-5,10,12-21
7. The Middle Eastern nations that are not a part of the confederation is instructive – the Arabian Peninsula nations (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Oman, Bahrain), Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.
8. The Army is destroyed by a combination of
a. A great earthquake Ezekiel 38:19-20
b. Sword Ezekiel 38:21 (the army destroys itself)
c. Plague and bloodshed Ezekiel 38:22
d. Torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur Ezekiel 38:22
9. This invading force is diplomatically but apparently not militarily confronted by
a. Sheba and Dedan
b. Merchants of Tarshish
c. Tarshish’s villages or strong lions or merchants. The preferred rendering for the Hebrew word “kepire” is young lions.
10. A culminating feature of the war whose destruction at first is limited only to Israel; is that fire later falls upon
b. Those who dwell
i. in safety in the coast lands
ii. carelessly in the coast lands - Ezekiel 39:6
11. After the war ends, God is acknowledged by all the nations of the world as the ultimate victor in this war. Ezekiel 39:7,21,23,27,28
12. Israel’s attitude toward God is particularly affected. Ezekiel 39:13,22,25-29
13. Israel’s wealth and prestige is dramatically increased by this war. Ezekiel 39:9-10, 23-24, 27
14. It never says directly, that Israel did anything to militarily confront the invaders. Ezekiel says that God directly took the actions that destroyed the armies. (See points 1, 11 and 12)
IV. Does This Prophecy Have America In View As A Part Of Its Fulfillment?
1. There are at least two places where America would seem to be a likely presence - Ezekiel 38:13 and Ezekiel 39:6. In Ezekiel 38:13 it says “Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish and her strong lions or villages, or merchants will say to you … ”.
Tarshish is mentioned over thirty times in scripture.
- Genesis 10:4 - Tarshish is one of the sons of Javan, who was a son of Japheth and thus a great-grandson of Noah. Tarshish’s descendants are associated with maritime countries at first in the Mediterranean and Aegean areas.
- The term is also associated with precious stones – Ezekiel 28:13; Exodus 28:20, 39:13; Dan 20:6.
- There are ten references to large ships including e.g. – 1 Kings 10:22; 2 Chronicles 9:22.
- It clearly refers to a place or places - 2 Chronicles 20:36-37
- The term also seems to be associated with places known for large scale smelting of metals – Jeremiah 10:9; Ezekiel 27:12
- Jonah fled to Tarshish – Jonah 1:3; 4:2
- Places that have been suggested as locations for Tarshish are Carthage, SW Spain, Sardinia, Tarsus.
Baker makes the point that “Part of the ambiguity of identification of Tarshish may well be the descriptive rather than the definite role of the names. It is used not to clearly identify one discrete geographical site, but rather to indicate that activity – smelting or refining went on in a location. The term could therefore very easily refer to any number of different sites.”(c)
- Tarshish is used with other locations – Sheba, Dedan, and Seba in Psalm 22:10 and Ezekiel 38:13.
- An understanding of Tarshish may be gained from knowing who Sheba and Dedan were and then infer a modern identity for each country.
- Biblical Sheba or Saba is a kingdom in pre-Islamic southwestern Arabia. Its ancient capital was Ma’rib which lies 75 miles east of present day Sanaa in Yemen (Encylopedia Britannica)
So the conclusion I have drawn given historical possibilities and modern political configurations is that Sheba and Dedan are the Arabian Peninsula Nations and that Tarshish is Great Britain and the young lions are the British colonies including the United States.
Why Should The Reference To The Young Lions Of Tarshish Be Understood This Way?
If Tarshish is Great Britain the “young lions” reference may have to do with the royal coat of arms of England, of the Commonwealth of England, and of the British Empire.(d) These coats of arms have always contained lions as its dominant feature since 1154. It’s present coat of arms is as shown in the following picture.