EZEKIEL 38 & 39 IN CONTEXT

Chapters 38 and 39 of the Book of Ezekiel depict God’s final defeat of evil among the nations which gets personified by a ruler who’s named Gog from the land of Magog. Now this name is derived from a genealogy of ancient kingdoms and lands from Genesis chapter 10. And it referred to powerful nations from the distant past. And so Ezekiel picks up this ancient biblical name as an image of any and all violent kingdoms. So we find that Gog gets allied with seven nations that come from all four directions of the compass. It’s clearly an image that represents all of the nations. This also helps us understand why Ezekiel describes Gog with images that he used earlier in the book to describe the king of Tyre and the king of Egypt, Pharaoh. For Ezekiel, Gog is an amalgam of all of the worst most violent people in the Bible. Gog is the archetype of human rebellion against God. The basic story in these chapters is that Gog resists God’s plan to restore His people. And so just like Pharaoh in the Exodus story, Gog comes to destroy the people. But God unleashes His justice on Gog. And it’s in a flurry of scenes that don’t actually make very good literal sense if you read them in sequence. Because first Gog and his armies are consumed by an earthquake. But then they’re consumed by fire, two different times. And then after that, God comes and strikes Gog and his army down in the fields where they lay unburied for months. It’s clear that these scenes are full of symbol and imagery, hence dogmatism in this area is inappropriate. Ezekiel has pulled out his entire poetic “tool set” here to describe how God is determined to finally defeat human evil that has ruined his world. And it’s so that he can pave the way for a new creation. And so once evil is finally dealt with among the nations, the last chapters of the book describe how God’s presence is going to one day return to His people and His temple to bring cosmic restoration.

It’s very interesting note that the whole of creation is a backdrop of God’s desire to have intimate fellowship with the cream of His creation, man, and it all started in a garden setting, and it will all end in a garden city called “The Lord is there”. God has finally restored all humanity and all His life-giving presence full of hope for a new future. New humans living in a new world that’s animated by God’s life-giving Spirit. It’s a world permeated with God’s love and justice.

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