Rethinking Ezekiel’s Invasion By Gog -- By: J. Paul Tanner

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 39:1 (Mar 1996)
Article: Rethinking Ezekiel’s Invasion By Gog
Author: J. Paul Tanner

Rethinking Ezekiel’s Invasion By Gog

J. Paul Tanner*

Buried in the depths of the OT is an apocalyptic account of a fierce battle involving an assault upon Israel by the nations of the world headed by Gog of the land of Magog. The details are recorded in Ezekiel 38–39. How are we to interpret the account? And when should we expect the war to take place? That an eschatological fulfillment of Ezekiel 38–39 should be anticipated is not unreasonable, since there has been no historical battle since Ezekiel’s day that would fulfill the details of this passage.

The timing of the battle is not the only major issue. These chapters have quite often been associated with Russia, an association that, given the changing political climate in the past few years, demands a careful reevaluation. 1 Two primary reasons within the text have suggested to some that Russia will be the culprit to head the invasion against Israel: (1) Certain place names, such as Rosh and Meshech, might appear to have etymological connections with modern-day Russia (i.e. Rosh for Russia; Meshech for Moscow); and (2) the invasion of forces is said to come from the “remote parts of the north” (Ezek 38:6), which certainly makes Russia suspect, since she lies directly north of Israel.

The fulfillment of the prophesied invasion is most often regarded as taking place during the tribulation period preceding the second coming of Christ. This has been the prevailing opinion of dispensational premillennialism.2 In this theological system so much emphasis has been placed upon an eschatological tribulation period that it was almost assumed that Ezekiel 38–39 belonged there. I would like to make the confession, as an advocate of this system myself, that this conclusion has come about as the result of a somewhat backwards methodology. Rather than starting with

* Paul Tanner is lecturer in Hebrew at Singapore Bible College, 9–15 Adam Road, Singapore 289886.

the tribulation (in which many a fierce battle will transpire) and assuming that the battle of Gog belongs there, I would suggest that a more proper approach would be from the opposite direction—that is, the development of OT themes that progressively emerged subsequent to Israel’s exodus from Egypt. What I have in mind is the progressive unfolding of God’s restoration plan for Israel, first described in Deuteronomy and subsequently elaborated by the prophets of...

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