I have a detailed summary of the Gog and Magog war of Ezekiel 38-39, but I do want to go through it verse by verse because it is such a critical prophetic piece. I will provide links at the end of this post to the related discussions.
The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, set your face toward Gog [the leader, not his real name], of the land of Magog [Russia? Turkey?], the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal [Moscow and Tobolsk?], and prophesy against him 3 and say, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. 4 And I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, [God is fully in control of the timing of this war and purposefully leads the leader and nations involved to do His will] and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed in full armor, a great host, all of them with buckler and shield, wielding swords. [The Hebrew words for these are pictorial words that describe their function, and representing them with modern weapons and machinery does not pose an interpretation issue] 5 Persia, Cush, and Put [Iran, with Sudan or Ethopia, and Libya or Somalia] are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; [defensive equipment] 6 Gomer [Turkey] and all his hordes; Beth-togarmah [Armenia or Turkey] from the uttermost parts of the north with all his hordes—many peoples are with you. [It is unclear who “all his hordes” and “many peoples” are. It could possibly include all the nations bordering Israel, which would then include the Psalm 83 and Isaiah 17 battles]
7 “Be ready and keep ready, you and all your hosts that are assembled about you, and be a guard for them. [This battle will be in preparation for a long time in advance. One nation may do the invading, with the others providing a supportive defensive role?] 8 After many days you will be mustered. [God will bring them together] In the latter years [near the end of the age] you will go against the land that is restored from war [unspecified which war, or how long it has been. Israel has seen several wars and is currently in a state of restoration from them], the land whose people were gathered from many peoples [Jews have been returning back to the homeland from all across the globe] upon the mountains of Israel, which had been a continual waste [the land, which had been barren, is now abundant]. Its people were brought out from the peoples [just as predicted in Ezekiel in the previous several chapters] and now dwell securely [this is the “betach” mentioned earlier, which can mean safely or securely, but can also mean carelessly], all of them. 9 You will advance, coming on like a storm. [swiftly and powerfully] You will be like a cloud covering the land, you and all your hordes, and many peoples with you. [this describes the sheer number of them, and hints at Israel’s risk of complete annihilation]
10 “Thus says the Lord God: On that day, thoughts will come into your mind, and you will devise an evil scheme [God will enter these thoughts in “Gog’s” mind on a specific day that He has planned, to fulfill His purposes] 11 and say, ‘I will go up against the land of unwalled villages. [in Ezekiel’s day, all villages and towns had walls surrounding them to protect them. This would be an unusual vision for him 2500 years ago, but is common for us today]. I will fall upon the quiet people who dwell securely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having no bars or gates,’ [Israel, dwelling in “betach”] 12 to seize spoil and carry off plunder, [the human goal of this war is to plunder Israel’s resources; the recent discovery of massive amounts of oil in Israel may be a motivating factor] to turn your hand against the waste places that are now inhabited, [reflecting on the land that sat desolate for several thousand years but is now restored] and the people who were gathered from the nations [the Jews who have returned to Israel from around the globe, gathered invisibly by God Himself], who have acquired livestock and goods [their wealth], who dwell at the center of the earth [from God’s perspective, this is the focal spot on earth where He has staked out a claim for Himself].13 Sheba and Dedan [southwestern Arabia – possibly traders or merchants] and the merchants of Tarshish [Spain traditionally, but may represent all “younger” nations] and all its leaders will say to you, ‘Have you come to seize spoil? Have you assembled your hosts to carry off plunder, to carry away silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods, to seize great spoil?’ [this may represent a weak protest against the invasion; or it may be a fear response by Arabia and “younger nations” that they may also be targeted at some point – it is clear to US the scope of the invasion, but it may not be clear to the world]
14 “Therefore, son of man, prophesy, and say to Gog, Thus says the Lord God: On that day when my people Israel are dwelling securely, will you not know it? [God reiterates that Israel will be dwelling in perceived safety.] 15 You will come from your place out of the uttermost parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding on horses, a great host, a mighty army. [Russia, to the uttermost north, and the many peoples – some of them described, some of them anonymous in this account, a great and well equipped army] 16 You will come up against my people Israel, like a cloud covering the land. In the latter days I will bring you against my land, that the nations may know me, when through you, O Gog, I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. [Here is the purpose for this battle – so that the nations (all the world) will know the Lord is God]
17 “Thus says the Lord God: Are you he of whom I spoke in former days by my servants the prophets of Israel, who in those days prophesied for years that I would bring you against them? [This is a rhetorical question. Gog has no supernatural control over when he invades Israel or how his invasion progresses. There is no description of satan’s powers at work in this prophecy, unlike the prophecies in Daniel and Revelation.] 18 But on that day, the day that Gog shall come against the land of Israel, declares the Lord God, my wrath will be roused in my anger. [God defines the day Gog comes against Israel as the day His wrath is roused – reference – Day of the Lord] 19 For in my jealousy and in my blazing wrath I declare, On that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. [note: great earthquake, starts in Israel] 20 The fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the field and all creeping things that creep on the ground, and all the people who are on the face of the earth, shall quake at my presence. [every living thing on the face of earth and in the atmosphere will be affected] And the mountains shall be thrown down, and the cliffs shall fall, and every wall shall tumble to the ground. [all the mountains will be moved, cliffs and walls broken] 21 I will summon a sword against Gog on all my mountains, declares the Lord God. Every man’s sword will be against his brother. [there will be confusion and the army will turn against itself] 22 With pestilence and bloodshed [associated with the spread of infectious diseases, blood may refer to the death toll, this is similar to Seal 4] I will enter into judgment with him, and I will rain upon him and his hordes and the many peoples who are with him torrential rains and hailstones [severe flooding, destructive hail – similar to Trumpet 1 judgment], fire and sulfur [volcanic eruptions, or possibly military weapons, lightning accompanying the rain and hail – similar to Trumpet 1 and perhaps Seal 6 judgment]. [God’s judgment comes in three sets of plagues: pestilence and bloodshed, torrential rains and hailstones, fire and sulfur. Note the contrast of both fire and ice in the judgments.] 23 So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord. [this is the purpose of the war, to reveal God’s face and remove His silence]
Compare Ezekiel 38:18-23 with Seal 6 in Revelation 6:12-17:
12 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14 The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”
Also compare with Trumpet 1 in Revelation 8:7:
7 The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth. And a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.
“And you, son of man, prophesy against Gog and say, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. 2 And I will turn you about and drive you forward, and bring you up from the uttermost parts of the north, and lead you against the mountains of Israel. [Again, God affirms that He is the one directing this entire process on a very specific timeline. This is opposed to the final battle at the end of the Millennial Kingdom, which satan directs.] 3 Then I will strike your bow from your left hand, and will make your arrows drop out of your right hand. [The war against Israel won’t even really be able to begin] 4 You shall fall on the mountains of Israel, you and all your hordes and the peoples who are with you. [Emphasis is on the mountains of Israel, where they will be gathered] I will give you to birds of prey of every sort and to the beasts of the field to be devoured. [instead of humans offering clean animals in sacrifice, humans will be a sacrifice to the birds of prey and beasts of the field – ceremonially unclean animals. Note the connection here to Luke 17:37 – the first of the sacrificial feasts God prepares for the birds of prey. This places a strong connection between the rapture at the same time as or followed immediately by the Gog Magog war.] 5 You shall fall in the open field, for I have spoken, declares the Lord God. 6 I will send fire on Magog and on those who dwell securely in the coastlands, and they shall know that I am the Lord. [God will also send judgment on the countries these people came from – the land of Russia and the coastlands – those who stayed behind will not be spared from wrath]
7 “And my holy name I will make known in the midst of my people Israel, and I will not let my holy name be profaned anymore. [Once again, God’s purpose for this war is to make His Holy Name known in Israel] And the nations shall know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel. [God will make His Name known in all the nations of the world as well. Jack Kelley states it well – God will poke His head through the fabric of the heavens and yell – “I’m still here!!!”] 8 Behold, it is coming and it will be brought about, declares the Lord God. [It is a certainty and will be done exactly as God has planned.] That is the day of which I have spoken. [This can be none other than the Day of the Lord, which is spoken about throughout the entire Old Testament through the prophets – Isaiah 13:6, 9; Jeremiah 46:10; Joel 1:15, 2:1, 2:11, 3:14; Amos 5:18; Obadiah 1:15; Zephaniah 1:7, 1:14; Zechariah 14:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:2]
9 “Then those who dwell in the cities of Israel will go out and make fires of the weapons and burn them, shields and bucklers, bow and arrows, clubs and spears; and they will make fires of them for seven years,10 so that they will not need to take wood out of the field or cut down any out of the forests, for they will make their fires of the weapons. They will seize the spoil of those who despoiled them, and plunder those who plundered them, declares the Lord God.
11 “On that day I will give to Gog a place for burial in Israel, the Valley of the Travelers, east of the sea. It will block the travelers, for there Gog and all his multitude will be buried. [Gog will fall and be buried with his armies in a massive unmarked grave] It will be called the Valley of Hamon-gog. 12 For seven months the house of Israel will be burying them, in order to cleanse the land. [Note that SEVEN MONTHS it will take to bury the dead] 13 All the people of the land will bury them, and it will bring them renown on the day that I show my glory, declares the Lord God. [Note that ALL the people will participate in the cleanup] 14 They will set apart men to travel through the land regularly and bury those travelers remaining on the face of the land, so as to cleanse it. At the end of seven months they will make their search. 15 And when these travel through the land and anyone sees a human bone, then he shall set up a sign by it, till the buriers have buried it in the Valley of Hamon-gog. 16 (Hamonah is also the name of the city.) Thus shall they cleanse the land. [The detailed cleanup is interesting as it is the only time in scripture a cleanup is mentioned. Some draw the conclusion that there may be contamination of some sort – nuclear, chemical, or biological.]
17 “As for you, son of man, thus says the Lord God: Speak to the birds of every sort and to all beasts of the field: ‘Assemble and come, gather from all around to the sacrificial feast that I am preparing for you, a great sacrificial feast on the mountains of Israel, and you shall eat flesh and drink blood. [Again referencing Luke 17:37] 18 You shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth—of rams, of lambs, and of he-goats, of bulls, all of them fat beasts of Bashan. 19 And you shall eat fat till you are filled, and drink blood till you are drunk, at the sacrificial feast that I am preparing for you. 20 And you shall be filled at my table with horses and charioteers, with mighty men and all kinds of warriors,’ declares the Lord God.
21 “And I will set my glory among the nations, and all the nations shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid on them. 22 The house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God, from that day forward. [God will be glorified in Israel and among the nations; the main purpose for this war. The partial blindness of Israel is removed; Romans 11:25 – again connecting the rapture of the church to the same time or immediately before this war]. 23 And the nations shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity, because they dealt so treacherously with me that I hid my face from them and gave them into the hand of their adversaries, and they all fell by the sword. 24 I dealt with them according to their uncleanness and their transgressions, and hid my face from them. [God explains the reason for His silence. Interesting connections to Ezekiel’s 430 days of laying and the purpose of the Church Age – the silent age of faith.]
The Lord Will Restore Israel
[What God does not include in this prophecy is the gap between verse 24 and verse 25. In Ezekiel 38:1 – 39:24, God has revealed His face to national Israel. He is silent no more – how will they respond? God is giving them one more chance to receive their true Messiah – Jesus (Yeshua). As with His first coming, the offer is genuine. Inserted in this space is the 70th week of Daniel, the time of testing and purification for Israel (see Daniel 9-12 and Revelation 6-19). However, the majority of Israel will NOT see the gap and will try to usher in the kingdom under a false messiah figure – the antichrist – during the “Tribulation”. This Gog war will create an economic, political, and religious vacuum that will beg to be filled. We are told in Daniel, 2 Thessalonians 2, and Revelation exactly “who” will step up to fill this vacuum. Once the 7-year testing is complete, we continue on in Ezekiel with verse 25, which will usher in the true Messianic Kingdom. ]
25 “Therefore thus says the Lord God: Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel [the process of restoring the whole house of Israel begins now, and will be completed at the end of the Day of the Lord – the process will take approximately 7 years to complete (possibly up to 10 years). This is the regathering of ALL the Jews, which occurs at the Second Coming of Christ], and I will be jealous for my holy name. 26 They shall forget their shame and all the treachery they have practiced against me, when they dwell securely in their land with none to make them afraid, 27 when I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them from their enemies’ lands, and through them have vindicated my holiness in the sight of many nations. 28 Then they shall know that I am the Lord their God, because I sent them into exile among the nations and then assembled them into their own land. I will leave none of them remaining among the nations anymore. [The fulfillment of Matthew 24:31 – 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.] 29 And I will not hide my face anymore from them, when I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, declares the Lord God.” [God’s Spirit will be poured out on them at their national SPIRITUAL rebirth, at the Second Coming of Christ]
Are you CERTAIN of your Salvation, beyond a shadow of a doubt? Do you KNOW that no matter when the rapture occurs, you will be counted worthy to escape? If not, please read What Must I do to Be Saved.
When God Intervenes (Douglas Berner) – I recommend this book for multiple reasons, but it has a very good discussion of the Gog Magog war.
The Silence is Broken! God Hooks Ezekiel’s Gog & Magog (Douglas Berner) – If you are really interested in Ezekiel 38-39, this is an exhaustive discussion of it!
Douglas Berner has several short articles available online.
For an alternative interpretation, Beginning and End offers this exposition.
The Bible is infallible. I am not. I am merely challenging traditional models and testing them against Scripture. I believe that traditional pretribulation teachings provide a solid backbone upon which to lay the musculature of details, some of which I think might need to be adjusted slightly. I encourage you to consider my thoughts as you also examine the scriptures to see if these things are so!