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Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
The sublime prophecy contained in this and the following chapter relates to Israel's victory over Gog, and is very obscure. It begins with representing a prodigious armament of many nations combined together under the conduct of Gog, with the intention of overwhelming the Jews, after having been for some time resettled in their land subsequent to their return from the Babylonish captivity, Ezekiel 38:1-9. These enemies are farther represented as making themselves sure of the spoil, Ezekiel 38:10-13. But in this critical conjuncture when Israel, to all human appearance, was about to be swallowed up by her enemies, God most graciously appears, to execute by terrible judgments the vengeance threatened against these formidable adversaries of his people, Ezekiel 38:14-16. The prophet, in terms borrowed from human passions, describes, with awful emphasis, the fury of Jehovah as coming up to his face; and the effects of it so dreadful, as to make all the animate and inanimate creation tremble, and even to convulse with terror the whole frame of nature, Ezekiel 38:17-23.
1And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
2Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him,
Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog - This is allowed to be the most difficult prophecy in the Old Testament. It is difficult to us, because we know not the king nor people intended by it: but I am satisfied they were well known by these names in the time that the prophet wrote.
I have already remarked in the introduction to this book that there are but two opinions on this subject that appear to be at all probable:
1. That which makes Gog Cambyses, king of Persia; and,
2. That which makes him Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria.
And between these two (for one or other is supposed to be the person intended) men are much divided.
Calmet, one of the most judicious commentators that ever wrote on the Bible, declares for Cambyses; and supports his opinion, in opposition to all others, by many arguments.
Mr. Mede supposes the Americans are meant who were originally colonies of the Scythians who were descendants of Magog, son of Japheth. Houbigant declares for the Scythians, whose neighbors were the people of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, that is the Russians, Muscovites, and Tybareni or Cappadocians. Several eminent critics espouse this opinion. Rabbi David Kimchi says the Christians and Turks are meant: and of later opinions there are several, founded in the ocean of conjecture. Calmet says expressly, that Gog is Cambyses, king of Persia, who on his return from the land of Egypt, died in Judea. The Revelation David Martin, pastor of the Waloon church at Utrecht, concludes, after examining all previous opinions, that Antiochus Epiphanes, the great enemy on the Israelites, is alone intended here; and that Gog, which signifies covered, is an allusion to the well-known character of Antiochus, whom historians describe as an artful, cunning, and dissembling man. See Daniel 8:23, Daniel 8:25; Daniel 11:23, Daniel 11:27, Daniel 11:32. Magog he supposes to mean the country of Syria. Of this opinion the following quotation from Pliny, Hist. Nat., lib. v., c. 23, seems a proof; who, speaking of Coele-Syria, says Coele habet Apamiam Marsyia amne divisam a Nazarinorum Tetrarchia. Bambycem quam alio nomine Hierapolis vocatur, Syris vero Magog. "Coele-Syria has Apamia separated from the tetrarchy of the Nazarenes by the river Marsyia; and Bambyce, otherwise called Hierapolis; but by the Syrians, Magog."
I shall at present examine the text by this latter opinion.
Chief prince of Meshech and Tubal - These probably mean the auxiliary forces, over whom Antiochus was supreme; they were the Muscovites and Cappadocians.
3And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal:
4And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords:
I will turn thee back - Thy enterprise shall fail.
5Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet:
Persia - That a part of this country was tributary to Antiochus, see 1 Maccabees 3:31.
Ethiopia, and Libya - That these were auxiliaries of Antiochus is evident from Daniel 11:43 : "The Libyans and Ethiopians shall be at his steps."
6Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all his bands: and many people with thee.
Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah - The Cimmerians and Turcomanians, and other northern nations. - Calmet.
7Be thou prepared, and prepare for thyself, thou, and all thy company that are assembled unto thee, and be thou a guard unto them.
8After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them.
In the latter years thou shalt come - This was fulfilled about four hundred years after. - Martin. The expedition of Cambyses against Egypt was about twelve years after the return of the Jews from Babylon. - Calmet.
9Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee.
Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm - It is observable that Antiochus is thus spoken of by Daniel, Daniel 11:40 : The king of the north - Antiochus, shall come against him (the king of the south is the king of Egypt) like a whirlwind.
10Thus saith the Lord GOD; It shall also come to pass, that at the same time shall things come into thy mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought:
Shall things come into thy mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought - Antiochus purposed to invade and destroy Egypt, as well as Judea; see Daniel 11:31, Daniel 11:32, Daniel 11:36. This Calmet interprets of Cambyses, his cruelties in Egypt, and his evil design to destroy the Israelites.
11And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates,
12To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land.
To take a spoil - and a prey - When Antiochus took Jerusalem he gave the pillage of it to his soldiers, and spoiled the temple of its riches, which were immense. See Josephus War, B. 1. C. 1.
13Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?
Sheba, and Dedan - The Arabians, anciently great plunderers; and Tarshish, the inhabitants of the famous isle of Tartessus, the most noted merchants of the time. They are here represented as coming to Antiochus before he undertook the expedition, and bargaining for the spoils of the Jews. Art thou come to take a spoil, to carry away silver and gold, cattle and goods?
14Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say unto Gog, Thus saith the Lord GOD; In that day when my people of Israel dwelleth safely, shalt thou not know it?
15And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company, and a mighty army:
16And thou shalt come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against my land, that the heathen may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes.
When I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog - By the defeat of his troops under Lysias, his general. 1 Maccabees 3:32, 33, etc., and 6:6.
17Thus saith the Lord GOD; Art thou he of whom I have spoken in old time by my servants the prophets of Israel, which prophesied in those days many years that I would bring thee against them?
Art thou he of whom I have spoken in old time - This prophecy concerning Antiochus and the Jews was delivered about four hundred years before the events took place. - Martin. Calmet maintains that Cambyses is spoken of, and refers to ancient prophecies, especially Isaiah 14, Isaiah 15:1-9, Isaiah 16:1-14, Isaiah 20:1-6, 21.
18And it shall come to pass at the same time when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, that my fury shall come up in my face.
19For in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken, Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel;
20So that the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep upon the earth, and all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown down, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground.
21And I will call for a sword against him throughout all my mountains, saith the Lord GOD: every man's sword shall be against his brother.
I will call for a sword against him - Meaning Judas Maccabeus, who defeated his army under Lysias, making a horrible carnage. - Martin. Cambyses had no wars in the mountains of Israel.
22And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone.
Great hailstones, fire, and brimstone - These are probably figurative expressions, to signify that the whole tide of the war should be against him, and that his defeat and slaughter should be great. Abp. Newcome supposes all the above prophecy remains yet to be fulfilled. Where such eminent scribes are divided, who shall decide!
23Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the LORD.