Chapter 38:18 through chapter 39 is one of the most detailed prophecies about a specific war – or rather, attempted invasion – in the whole of Scripture; it paints a pretty terrifying and awesome picture of what God will do, and it leaves the reader in no doubt that when it happens, all people everywhere will know that this is a direct and supernatural intervention by God Himself on behalf of His people.
Firstly, there will be an enormous earthquake – and when I say enormous, I mean literally off-the-Richter-scale enormous:
‘Surely in that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel, so that the fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens, the beasts of the field, all creeping things that creep on the earth, and all men who are on the face of the earth shall shake at My presence. The mountains shall be thrown down, the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground.’Ezekiel 38:19-20
Interestingly, seismologists have been watching the earthquake situation in Israel very closely for many years, and have been predicting a major quake in the near future. Apparently the region has large earthquakes about every 100-150 years, and the last major one was in 1927 — a 6.2-magnitude tremor that killed 500 people and injured 700. The Times of Israel reported in December 2020 that Israel’s earthquake readiness isn’t good enough, and that the quakes could get larger (https://www.timesofisrael.com/major-earthquake-killing-hundreds-likely-to-hit-israel-in-coming-years-study/).
Following this, it seems the armies are about to flee the region, but God is not finished with them. Chapter 38 ends with a description of ‘flooding rain, great hailstones, fire, and brimstone’ being rained down on the armies as they are sent into disarray on the mountains north of Israel – this is nothing short of an apocalyptic, direct and supernatural intervention, and thanks to our modern-day technology, the whole world will be able to watch this unfolding in real time.
‘And you, son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal; and I will turn you around and lead you on, bringing you up from the far north, and bring you against the mountains of Israel. Then I will knock the bow out of your left hand, and cause the arrows to fall out of your right hand. You shall fall upon the mountains of Israel, you and all your troops and the peoples who are with you; I will give you to birds of prey of every sort and to the beasts of the field to be devoured. You shall fall on the open field; for I have spoken,” says the Lord God.’Ezekiel 39:1-5
According to the narrative in this prophecy, the armies have barely reached the mountains of Israel (the Golan Heights) before God intervenes in this way, destroying weaponry and throwing the armies into confusion and self-destruction. He has done this before, on several occasions in Israel’s ancient history, notably in Exodus, as they were crossing the Red Sea, and in Judges, when Gideon leads his massively outnumbered little army against the Midianites. Both times God causes confusion and panic amongst the enemy forces, helping His people to win the victory. Here in Ezekiel, however, there isn’t a single mention of an Israeli army at this point, so the inference is that either they are taken so completely by surprise that they haven’t had time to mount a response, or that they are simply unprepared to counter such a massive invading force; quite a sobering thought for one of the world’s most advanced militaries. On this occasion, God does all the fighting for them.
The passage goes on to say that He will ‘send fire on Magog and all who live in security in the coastlands.’ (v.6). Quite what this means, apart from the obvious plain reading of the text is unclear, but the coastlands is a term used for the edge of the known world during Ezekiel’s time – some scholars believe that this includes the Iberian Peninsula and even the UK. The Phoenicians were known to have come as far north as Cornwall to trade for tin, and Tarshish is commonly accepted to indicate Spain. So just because this conflict takes place hundreds of miles away from us here, sitting cosy in the UK, that doesn’t mean we won’t be affected in some way. The purpose of this is very explicit; “Then they shall know that I am the Lord.” (v.6) God isn’t just having a capricious fit of fury like Zeus and his thunderbolts – His judgements, interventions and actions are all exact and precisely timed for bringing justice on evil and for the purpose of revealing His supreme power and glory so that in His love He can have mercy on those who repent and turn to Him for salvation.
It’s not just the nations around Israel who are being brought up short for wickedness, either. The next verse makes it clear that Israel has been profaning God’s holy Name, behaving in an unjust way that dishonours Him, and God has had enough. He is stepping in to defend His covenant people and His land because He had promised to do so in His ancient pledges to Abraham, David and the Jewish people as a whole, but He won’t let wickedness go unpunished in any nation.
“Then the nations shall know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel. Surely it is coming, and it shall be done,” says the Lord God. “This is the day of which I have spoken.”Ezekiel 39:7-8
At this point we have the first mention of human involvement. The invading armies have been thrown into complete destruction and the implication from the text is that there are no survivors – hardly surprising if fire and brimstone are involved. The only other place that we have a record of a fire and brimstone judgement like this is in Genesis when God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah, and the result of that is the wilderness surrounding the Dead Sea; it used to be the lush plains of the Jordan Valley, but now it is an eerie wasteland of ash and 98% pure sulphur concentration in pellets that still burst into toxic flame when touched with a match. The ruins of both cities have been found, and documented, corroborated with ancient sources such as Josephus, so if God is bringing a similar judgement here, similar results can be expected. The text in Ezekiel goes on to say that the people in the cities of Israel will go out and collect the weaponry, and they will be destroying it for seven years following the defeat. The text implies that they can somehow convert the weapons into an energy source, such that they won’t need natural energy resources for seven years (v. 9-10). Obviously, the language of the original text uses descriptions that ancient readers would understand; in no way am I saying that the armies will literally have old-style spears, swords, shields, and wooden implements. You have to read it with the ancient context in mind.
The text also says that the people of Israel will be burying dead bodies for seven months in order to ‘cleanse the land’. This could refer to a ceremonial cleansing, but also a very practical, everyday cleansing because there will be a lot of toxic substances left behind by this event. This cleansing and burying process is described in detail in verses 12-16, including specifics like search parties looking for human remains, and setting up markers by them wherever they are found so that teams of buriers can come and deal with them. Again, quite what this implies is unclear, but it could be that the weaponry brought against Israel by these armies is nuclear or contains other highly toxic substances that have polluted and contaminated both the land and the dead bodies, so specialists are needed to deal with it. Only time will tell.
“I will set My glory among the nations; all the nations shall see My judgment which I have executed, and My hand which I have laid on them. So the house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God from that day forward.”Ezekiel 39:21-22
The last few verses of Ezekiel 39 reiterate the purpose of all this; that God would be revealed in power both to the nations of the world, and also specifically to His people Israel who have been living in rebellion to His ways even after He gathered them back to their ancestral homeland and remade them as a nation. God is very clear that He will have mercy on all who turn to Him, whether Jew or Gentile, and He only brings final judgement when evil and wilful rejection of His laws has reached its absolute limit. He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), and His purpose in drastic interventions is to shake people out of their apathy and bring them to the point where they have to make a decision for or against Him. He wants to have mercy and save.
“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,” says the Lord God. “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live!”Ezekiel 18:30-32
When you see this come to pass, know that this is God’s ultimate purpose, and please believe and turn to Him in faith and repentance. As I write, I am not sure whether this will come before or after the Rapture, and if it’s afterwards, whether you will know who the Antichrist is yet, but there is a distinct possibility that he will rise to world dominance around this time, either in response to this crisis or just before, as Revelation describes a proud world-conquering figure riding out at the beginning of the Tribulation, and despite his promises of peace, war follows in his wake (Rev. 6:2-4). Or he may arise afterwards to take control and assure the world that he has the solution to Middle East peace. Whichever it is, DO NOT believe him. Only God has the solution to the mess we have made of this planet and of our societies, and He will ultimately have the victory, and bring real, lasting, beautiful peace for those who love and trust Him.