Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Further Description of the Judgment to Fall upon Gog and his Hosts
Eze 39:1-8. General announcement of his destruction. - Eze 39:1. And thou, son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will deal with thee, Gog, thou prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. Eze 39:2. I will mislead thee, and conduct thee, and cause thee to come up from the uttermost north, and bring thee to the mountains of Israel; Eze 39:3. And will smite thy bow from thy left hand, and cause thine arrows to fall from thy right hand. Eze 39:4. Upon the mountains of Israel wilt thou fall, thou and all thy hosts, and the peoples which are with thee: I give thee for food to the birds of prey of every plumage, and to the beasts of the field. Eze 39:5. Upon the open field shalt thou fall, for I have spoken it, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. Eze 39:6. And I will send fire in Magog, and among those who dwell in security upon the islands, that they may know that I am Jehovah. Eze 39:7. I will make known my holy name in the midst of my people Israel, and will not let my holy name be profaned any more, that the nations may know that I am Jehovah, holy in Israel. Eze 39:8. Behold, it comes and happens, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah; this is the day of which I spoke. - The further description of the judgment with which Gog and his hosts are threatened in Eze 38:21-23, commences with a repetition of the command to the prophet to prophesy against Gog (Eze 39:1, cf. Eze 38:2-3). The principal contents of Eze 38:4-15 are then briefly summed up in Eze 39:2. שׁבבתּיך, as in Eze 38:4, is strengthened by שׁשּׁתיך, שׁשׁא, ἁπαχ λεγ.., is not connected with שׁשׁ in the sense of "I leave a sixth part of thee remaining," or afflict thee with six punishments; but in the Ethiopic it signifies to proceed, or to climb, and here, accordingly, it is used in the sense of leading on (lxx καθοδηγήσω σε, or, according to another reading, κατάξω; Vulg. educam). For Eze 39:2, compare Eze 38:15 and Eze 38:8. In the land of Israel, God will strike his weapons out of his hands, i.e., make him incapable of fighting (for the fact itself, compare the similar figures in Psa 37:15; Psa 46:10), and give him up with all his army as a prey to death. עיט, a beast of prey, is more precisely defined by צפּור, and still further strengthened by the genitive כּל־כּנף: birds of prey of every kind. The judgment will not be confined to the destruction of the army of Gog, which has invaded the land of Israel, but (Eze 39:6) will also extend to the land of Gog, and to all the heathen nations that are dwelling in security. אשׁ, fire, primarily the fire of war; then, in a further sense, a figure denoting destruction inflicted directly by God, as in Eze 38:22, which is therefore represented in Rev 20:9 as fire falling from heaven. Magog is the population of the land of Magog (Eze 38:2). With this the inhabitants of the distant coastlands of the west (the איּים) are associated, as representatives of the remotest heathen nations. Eze 39:7, Eze 39:8. By this judgment the Lord will make known His holy name in Israel, and show the heathen that He will not let it be blasphemed by them any more. For the fact itself, compare Eze 36:20. For Eze 39:8, compare Eze 21:12, and for היּום, see Eze 38:18-19.
Total Destruction of Gog and his Hosts
Eze 39:9. Then will the inhabitants of the cities of Israel go forth, and burn and heat with armour and shield and target, with bow and arrows and hand-staves and spears, and will burn fire with them for seven years; Eze 39:10. And will not fetch wood from the field, nor cut wood out of the forests, but will burn fire with the armour, and will spoil those who spoiled them, and plunder those who plundered them, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. Eze 39:11. And it will come to pass in that day, that I will give Gog a place where his grave in Israel shall be, the valley of the travellers, and there will they bury Gog and all his multitude, and will call it the valley of Gog's multitude. Eze 39:12. They of the house of Israel will bury them, to purify the land for seven months. V.1 3. And all the people of the land will bury, and it will be to them for a name on the day when I glorify myself, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. Eze 39:14. And they will set apart constant men, such as rove about in the land, and such as bury with them that rove about those who remain upon the surface of the ground, to cleanse it, after the lapse of seven months will they search it through. Eze 39:15. And those who rove about will pass through the land; and if one sees a man's bone, he will set up a sign by it, till the buriers of the dead bury it in the valley of the multitude of Gog. Eze 39:16. The name of a city shall also be called Hamonah (multitude). And thus will they cleanse the land. Eze 39:17. And thou, son of man, thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Say to the birds of every plumage, and to all the beasts of the field, Assemble yourselves, and come, gather together from round about to my sacrifice, which I slaughter for you, to a great sacrifice upon the mountains of Israel, and eat flesh and drink blood. Eze 39:18. Flesh of heroes shall ye eat, and drink blood of princes of the earth; rams, lambs, and he-goats, bullocks, all fattened in Bashan. Eze 39:9. And ye shall eat fat to satiety, and drink blood to intoxication, of my sacrifice which I have slaughtered for you. Eze 39:20. And ye shall satiate yourselves at my table with horses and riders, heroes and all kinds of men of war, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. - To show how terrible the judgment upon Gog will be, Ezekiel depicts in three special ways the total destruction of his powerful forces. In the first place, the burning of all the weapons of the fallen foe will furnish the inhabitants of the land of Israel with wood for firing for seven years, so that there will be no necessity for them to fetch fuel from the field or from the forest (Eze 39:9 and Eze 39:10). But Hvernick is wrong in supposing that the reason for burning the weapons is that, according to Isa 9:5, weapons of war are irreconcilable with the character of the Messianic times of peace. This is not referred to here; but the motive is the complete annihilation of the enemy, the removal of every trace of him. The prophet therefore crowds the words together for the purpose of enumerating every kind of weapon that was combustible, even to the hand-staves which men were accustomed to carry (cf. Num 22:27). The quantity of the weapons will be so great, that they will supply the Israelites with all the fuel they need for seven years. The number seven in the seven years as well as in the seven months of burying (Eze 39:11) is symbolical, stamping the overthrow as a punishment inflicted by God, the completion of a divine judgment.
With the gathering of the weapons for burning there is associated the plundering of the fallen foe (Eze 39:10), by which the Israelites do to the enemy what he intended to do to them (Eze 38:12), and the people of God obtain possession of the wealth of their foes (cf. Jer 30:16). In the second place, God will assign a large burying-place for the army of Gog in a valley of Israel, which is to be named in consequence "the multitude of Gog;" just as a city in that region will also be called Hamonah from this event. The Israelites will bury the fallen of Gog there for seven months long, and after the expiration of that time they will have the land explored by men specially appointed for the purpose, and bones that may still have been left unburied will be sought out, and they will have them interred by buriers of the dead, that the land may be thoroughly cleansed (Eze 39:11-16). מקום שׁם, a place where there was a grave in Israel, i.e., a spot in which he might be buried in Israel. There are different opinions as to both the designation and the situation of this place. There is no foundation for the supposition that גּי העברים derives its name from the mountains of Abarim in Num 27:12 and Deu 32:49 (Michaelis, Eichhorn), or that it signifies valley of the haughty ones (Ewald), or that there is an allusion to the valley mentioned in Zac 14:4 (Hitzig), or the valley of Jehoshaphat (Kliefoth). The valley cannot even have derived its name (העברים) from the עברים, who passed through the land to search out the bones of the dead that still remained unburied, and have them interred (Eze 39:14, Eze 39:15). For העברים cannot have any other meaning here than that which it has in the circumstantial clause which follows, where those who explored the land cannot possibly be intended, although even this clause is also obscure. The only other passage in which חסם occurs is Deu 25:4, where it signifies a muzzle, and in the Arabic it means to obstruct, or cut off; and hence, in the passage before us, probably, to stop the way. העברים are not the Scythians (Hitzig), for the word עבר is never applied to their invasion of the land, but generally the travellers who pass through the land, or more especially those who cross from Peraea to Canaan. The valley of העברים is no doubt the valley of the Jordan above the Dead Sea. The definition indicates this, viz., קדמת, on the front of the sea; not to the east of the sea, as it is generally rendered, for קדמת never has this meaning (see the comm. on Gen 2:14). By היּם we cannot understand "the Mediterranean,"as the majority of the commentators have done, as there would then be no meaning in the words, since the whole of the land of Israel was situated to the east of the Mediterranean Sea. היּם is the Dead Sea, generally called היּם הקּדמוני (Eze 47:18); and קדמת, "on the front side of the (Dead) Sea," as looked at from Jerusalem, the central point of the land, is probably the valley of the Jordan, the principal crossing place from Gilead into Canaan proper, and the broadest part of the Jordan-valley, which was therefore well adapted to be the burial-place for the multitude of slaughtered foes. But in consequence of the army of Gog having there found its grave, this valley will in future block up the way to the travellers who desire to pass to and fro. This appears to be the meaning of the circumstantial clause.
From the fact that Gog's multitude is buried there, the valley itself will receive the name of Hamon-Gog. The Israelites will occupy seven months in burying them, so enormously great will be the number of the dead to be buried (Eze 39:12), and this labour will be for a name, i.e., for renown, to the whole nation. This does not mean, of course, "that it will be a source of honour to them to assist in this work;" nor is the renown to be sought in the fact, that as a privileged people, protected by God, they can possess the grave of Gog in their land (Hitzig), - a thought which is altogether remote, and perfectly foreign to Israelitish views; but the burying of Gog's multitude of troops will be for a name to the people of Israel, inasmuch as they thereby cleanse the land and manifest their zeal to show themselves a holy people by sweeping all uncleanness away. יום is an accusative of time: on the day when I glorify myself. - Eze 39:14, Eze 39:15. The effort made to cleanse the land perfectly from the uncleanness arising from the bones of the dead will be so great, that after the great mass of the slain have been buried in seven months, there will be men specially appointed to bury the bones of the dead that still lie scattered here and there about the land. אנשׁי תּמיד are people who have a permanent duty to discharge. The participles עברים and מקבּרים are co-ordinate, and are written together asyndetos, men who go about the land, and men who bury with those who go about. That the words are to be understood in this sense is evident from Eze 39:15, according to which those who go about do not perform the task of burying, but simply search for bones that have been left, and put up a sign for the buriers of the dead. ראה, with the subject indefinite; if one sees a human bone, he builds (erects) a ציּוּן, or stone, by the side of it (cf. Kg2 23:17). - Eze 39:16. A city shall also receive the name of Hamonah, i.e., multitude or tumult. To שׁם־עיר we may easily supply יהיה from the context, since this puts in the future the statement, "the name of the city is," for which no verb was required in Hebrew. In the last words, וטהרוּ הארץ, the main thought is finally repeated and the picture brought to a close. - Eze 39:17-20. In the third place, God will provide the birds of prey and beasts of prey with an abundant meal from this slaughter. This cannot be understood as signifying that only what remain of the corpses, and have not been cleared away in the manner depicted in Eze 39:11-16, will become the prey of wild beasts; but the beasts of prey will make their meal of the corpses before it is possible to bury them, since the burying cannot be effected immediately or all at once. - The several features in the picture, of the manner in which the enemies are to be destroyed till the last trace of them is gone, are not arranged in chronological order, but according to the subject-matter; and the thought that the slaughtered foes are to become the prey of wild beasts is mentioned last as being the more striking, because it is in this that their ignominious destruction culminates. To give due prominence to this thought, the birds and beasts of prey are summoned by God to gather together to the meal prepared for them. The picture given of it as a sacrificial meal is based upon Isa 34:6 and Jer 46:10. In harmony with this picture the slaughtered foes are designated as fattened sacrificial beasts, rams, lambs, he-goats, bullocks; on which Grotius has correctly remarked, that "these names of animals, which were generally employed in the sacrifices, are to be understood as signifying different orders of men, chiefs, generals, soldiers, as the Chaldee also observes."
The Result of this Judgment, and the Concluding Promise
Eze 39:21. Then will I display my glory among the nations, and all nations shall see my judgment which I shall execute, and my hand which I shall lay upon them. Eze 39:22. And the house of Israel shall know that I am Jehovah their God from this day and forward. Eze 39:23. And the nations shall know that because of their wickedness the house of Israel went into captivity; because they have been unfaithful toward me, I hid my face from them, and gave them into the hand of their oppressors, so that they all fell by the sword. Eze 39:24. According to their uncleanness, and according to their transgressions, I dealt with them, and hid my face from them. Eze 39:25. Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Now will I bring back the captivity of Jacob, and have pity upon all the house of Israel, and be jealous for my holy name. Eze 39:26. Then will they bear their reproach and all their faithlessness which they have committed toward me when they dwell in their land in security, and no one alarms them; Eze 39:27. When I bring them back out of the nations, and gather them out of the lands of their enemies, and sanctify myself upon them before the eyes of the many nations. Eze 39:28. And they will know that I, Jehovah, am their God, when I have driven them out to the nations, and then bring them together again into their land, and leave none of them there any more. Eze 39:29. And I will not hide my face from them any more, because I have poured out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. - The terrible judgment upon Gog will have this twofold effect as a revelation of the glory of God - first, Israel will know that the Lord is, and will always continue to be, its God (Eze 39:22); secondly, the heathen will know that He gave Israel into their power, and thrust it out of its own land, not from weakness, but to punish it for its faithless apostasy (Eze 39:23 and Eze 39:24; compare Eze 36:17.). עשׂה אתם (Eze 39:24), as in Eze 7:27, etc. But because this was the purpose of the Lord with His judgments, He will now bring back the captives of Israel, and have compassion upon all His people. This turn of the prophecy in Eze 39:25 serves to introduce the promise to Israel with which the prophecy concerning Gog and the whole series of prophecies, contained in Eze 35:1 onwards, are brought to a close (Eze 39:25-29). This promise reverts in 'עתּה אשׁיב וגו to the prophet's own time, to which Ezekiel had already gone back by mentioning the carrying away of Israel in Eze 39:23 and Eze 39:24. The restoration of the captives of Jacob commences with the liberation of Israel from the Babylonian exile, but is not to be restricted to this. It embraces all the deliverances which Israel will experience from the termination of the Babylonian exile till its final gathering out of the nations on the conversion of the remnant which is still hardened and scattered. לכן, therefore, sc. because God will prove Himself to be holy in the sight of the heathen nations by means of the judgment, and will make known to them that He has punished Israel solely on account of its sins, and therefore will He restore His people and renew it by His Spirit (Eze 39:29). - In what the jealousy of God for His holy name consists is evident from v.7, and still more plainly from Eze 36:22-23, namely, in the fact that by means of the judgment He manifests Himself as the holy God. ונשׂוּ is not to be altered into ונשׁוּ, "they will forget," as Dathe and Hitzig propose, but is a defective spelling for ונשׂאוּ (like מלוּ for מלאוּ in Eze 28:16): they will bear their reproach. The thought is the same as in Eze 16:54 and Eze 16:61, where the bearing of reproach is explained as signifying their being ashamed of their sins and their consequences, and feeling disgust thereat. They will feel this shame when the Lord grants them lasting peace in their own land. Raschi has correctly explained it thus: "When I shall have done them good, and not rewarded them as their iniquity deserved, they will be filled with shame, so that they will not dare to lift up their face." - Eze 39:27 is only a further expansion of Eze 39:26. For the fact itself, compare Eze 36:23-24; Eze 20:41, etc. And not only will Israel then be ashamed of its sins, but (Eze 39:28, Eze 39:29) it will also know that Jehovah is its God from henceforth and for ever, as was affirmed in Eze 39:22, when He shall fully restore to their own land the people that was thrust into exile, and withdraw His favour from it no more, because He has poured out His Spirit upon it, and thereby perfectly sanctified it as His own people (cf. Eze 36:27).
The promise with which the prophecy concerning the destruction of Gog is brought to a close, namely, that in this judgment all nations shall see the glory of God, and all Israel shall know that henceforth Jehovah will be their God, and will no more hide His face from them, serves to confirm the substance of the threat of punishment; inasmuch as it also teaches that, in the destruction of Gog and his gathering of peoples, the last attack of the heathen world-power upon the kingdom of God will be judged and overthrown, so that from that time forth the people of God will no more have to fear a foe who can disturb its peace and its blessedness in the everlasting possession of the inheritance given to it by the Lord. Gog is not only depicted as the last foe, whom the Lord Himself entices for the purpose of destroying him by miracles of His almighty power (Eze 38:3-4, Eze 38:19-22), by the fact that his appearance is assigned to the end of the times, when all Israel is gathered out of the nations and brought back out of the lands, and dwells in secure repose in the open and unfortified towns of its own land (Eze 38:8, Eze 38:11-12); but this may also be inferred from the fact that the gathering of peoples led by Gog against Israel belongs to the heathen nations living on the borders of the known world,since this points to a time when not only will the ancient foes of the kingdom of God, whose destruction was predicted in Ezekiel 25-32, have departed from the stage of history and perished, but the boundaries of Israel will also stretch far beyond the limits of Palestine, to the vicinity of these hordes of peoples at the remotest extremities on the north, the east, and the south of the globe. - So much may be gathered from the contents of our prophecy in relation to its historical fulfilment. But in order to determine with greater precision what is the heathen power thus rising up in Gog of Magog against the kingdom of God, we mut take into consideration the passage in the Apocalypse (Rev 20:8 and Rev 20:9), where our prophecy is resumed. Into this, however, we will not further enter till after the exposition of Ezekiel 40-48, when we shall take up the question as to the historical realization of the new temple and kingdom of God which Ezekiel saw.