Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
The last conflict of the world with God, and the complete overthrow of the former. This section Eze. 38-39 refers to times subsequent to the restoration of Israel. As the Church (the true Israel) waxes stronger and stronger, more distant nations will come into collision and must be overthrown before the triumph is complete. Some have thought that this prophecy is directed against the Scythians who had possession of Asia twenty-three years, and in the course of this time had overrun Syria, and had probably made their appearance in the holy land. But in this prophecy there is little distinctive of one nation. It is a gathering together of the enemies of Yahweh to make their last effort, and to be overthrown. The seer passes to the final struggle between Good and Evil, and the triumphant establishment of the divine rule. It is the same struggle which is depicted in the Book of Revelation Eze 20:7-10, where John adopts words and phrases of Ezekiel.
There are four main divisions of this prophecy:
(1) Eze 38:1-13, describing Gog's march;
(2) Eze 38:14-23, describing his punishment;
(3) Ezek. 39:1-16, describing his ruin;
(4) Eze 39:17-29, the issue of Gog's ruin in Israel's redemption and sanctification.
Each division is broken up like a poem into stanzas.
Gog ... - Gog of the land of Magog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal. "Gog" is here the name of a captain from "the land of Magog" (compare Gen 10:2) the name of a people of the north, placed between "Gomer" (the Cimmerians) and "Madai" (the Medes). In the History of Assurbanipal from cuneiform inscriptions, a chief of the Saka (Scythians), called Ga-a-gi, is identified by some with Gog. Rosh, if a proper name, occurs in this connection only.
With all sorts - Or, "gorgeously;" see the marginal reference. Omit "of armor."
Libya and Ethiopia, mixed with the northern invaders, are tribes from the extreme south, to show that this is a general combination of the foes of God's people.
Spoken ironically. Make all thy preparations, they will be in vain.
As Gog was drawn on to his attack upon Israel in order to his ultimate ruin, therefore his preparations were the first step in his visitation from the Almighty.
After many days - For "many days." Many a long day shall the hand of God be upon thee, drawing thee on to thy ruin, and in the latter days shalt thou come.
The land - literally, a "land" once laid waste by the sword, but now delivered from it, whose inhabitants once scattered have been gathered together from out of many peoples.
Always - Rather, a long time. The mountains were at the time of Gog's advance again cultivated and populous.
And they shall dwell - Rather, and they dwell. It is a description of the actual condition at the time of Gog's invasion (compare Jdg 18:7). Such was the condition of the restored Jews in their prosperous days, after which came invasion. Such shall be the condition of the Church previous to the final conflict between good and evil.
Unwalled villages - Compare Zac 2:4-5.
God will mark the prosperous security of the people, and rise up against them as an easy prey.
I shall be sanctified in thee - I shall be shown to be holy and just in avenging Myself of Mine enemy.
Gog - is not mentioned by name in any existing prophecy before Ezekiel's time. The reference here shows
(1) that the conflict with Gog does not represent a particular event, but one of which the prophets in general had to speak;
(2) that in the interpretation of Old Testament prophecy we are to look beyond special fulfillments.
Events in the world's history come within a prophet's ken as parts of the divine administration whereby evil struggles against but is overcome by good. As every such conflict is a prelude to the final struggle, so its prediction has reference ultimately to the consummation here foretold.