James 5:1 (KJV) Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Why Does God Ask "Gog, Are You The One?"

Gog: Are You The One?
By Douglas Berner

Thus 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? (Ezekiel 38:17 KJV)

The ArtScroll Tanach Series volume of Yechezkel (Ezekiel) renders this verse as follows:
Thus says my Lord HASHEM/ELOHIM: Are you the one about whom I spoke in ancient days through My servants, the prophets of Israel, who prophesied in those days many years ago that I would bring you against them?

Why does God include this verse in his prophecy regarding Gog and Magog in chapters 38 and 39 of the book of Ezekiel? In verses 38:2-3 and 39:1, God establishes that the prophecy is directed towards a future leader, Gog, of the land of Magog, and that God, Himself, is specifically against this leader Gog. Ezekiel tells us that God declares, Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, at the beginning of both chapters.

God is focused on Gog in a very unfavorable manner. Gog is asked if he thinks he is the one whom God has spoken about through the prophets. Is Gog the one who will successfully invade Israel and bring destruction to the land?

This is a verse that has caused some confusion and misunderstanding for many readers of the prophecy of Ezekiel 38-39. Most readers and scholars conclude that God is telling us that Gog and his invasion were already predicted by the prophets, prior to Ezekiel’s time, and that Gog will be the fulfillment of those prophecies. However, I believe this conclusion is a misunderstanding of the character of this passage.

Scholars who interpret Gog as the fulfillment of previous prophecies struggle with identifying which prophecies were written about Gog. This is an inevitable result of not having any prophecies in the Old Testament which specifically name Gog. The only exception to this lack of identification of Gog is in the Septuagint translation of Numbers 24:7 and Amos 7:1. In the Septuagint, Gog replaces Agag in Numbers 24:7, and in Amos 7:1, Gog is mentioned as a king of the locusts. Neither of these translations is consistent with the Masoretic text and neither helps us in the identification of Ezekiel’s Gog, as neither of these passages contains any prophetic information directly relating to Ezekiel 38-39.

Some scholars point out that there are books mentioned in the Bible that we no longer have access to which could contain the prophecies referred to in Ezekiel 38:17. These books include: the book of the wars of the LORD (Numbers 21:14); the book of Jasher (Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samual 1:18) (Strong’s Concordance identifies this as a book of songs); and the book of Nathan the Prophet (1 Chronicles 29:29). There is a version of a book of Jasher available. I have one titled, Sefer Hayashar: The Book of the Generations of Adam. Whether this is the same book referred to in scripture is uncertain. Regardless, this book does not contain prophecies regarding a leader called Gog.

It cannot be completely ruled out that prophecies regarding Gog were not made and then lost and thus not recorded in the canon of the Old Testament. However, that would indicate that the Holy Spirit lost control of some of God’s important prophetic messages and I have difficulty reconciling that with the status of the Bible as the supernatural word of God. I do not believe the answer to Gog’s prophetic status lies in lost prophecies.

In Ezekiel 38:17, God is making a point by asking a question. But why is this statement raised in the form of a question? What is the message that we are to take from this passage? We need to understand that the prophet Ezekiel is not asking this question. It is God who is asking this question. God is pointing this question directly at Gog, “Are you the one?”

Ezekiel was called by God to become a prophet during Israel’s seventy year period of exile to Babylon. God is insinuating that in the historical time preceding Ezekiel’s day He had instructed the Israelites through the prophets regarding a future leader who would come against them (invade Israel militarily) as a form of judgment or chastisement by the sanction of God. God used Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon for that very purpose during Ezekiel’s lifetime, but God is not referring to Babylon in this prophecy. He is referring to a future event following Israel’s return to the Land from their exile to Babylon. In fact, God makes it clear that He is referring to a time following the return of Israel to the Land from an exile which included not just Babylon but the many nations of the world (Ezekiel 38:8). God also makes it clear that this prophecy will be fulfilled in the “latter years” and “latter days” of Israel’s history (Ezekiel 38:8, 16).

When we study the character of this prophecy and God’s relationship to it, the fact that God raised this verse in the form of a question becomes highly significant.

What leader is God referring to when He mentions “the one about whom I spoke” in this passage? He can only be referring to the future Antichrist. That future leader will invade Israel and will be used by God as the final world leader who comes against Israel in the form of a divinely sanctioned judgment or chastisement. God has a purpose for the Antichrist to fulfill which is to act as an instrument of God’s indignation by pushing Israel to the brink of total destruction and thus forcing the Jewish people to acknowledge God’s Son, Jesus Christ, as their true Messiah. God has specifically allocated a period of three and one half years for the Antichrist to be empowered by Satan and to impose his will over Israel. The Antichrist will come, not because Satan mandates his coming, but because God mandates it.

We should ask whether God allows any such comparable role for the Gog of Ezekiel 38-39. Does Gog get any supernaturally mandated time to impose his own will over Israel?

Absolutely not! The very next verse 38:18 makes this clear when Ezekiel declares, And 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. God reveals His reaction to Gog’s invasion of Israel by announcing an immediate divine intervention against Gog and his armies. God will decisively intervene to cause the supernatural destruction of all of the invading forces in Gog’s alliance. When will God intervene? At the very beginning of the invasion before it has a chance of succeeding, not three and a half years later.

What purpose does the question that God has raised in this verse serve God in the context of the prophecy of Ezekiel 38-39 if Gog is really the final world leader prophesied by God’s prophets? I think the answer is none. If Gog really is the one, then the verse is superfluous. But what if Gog is not the one! Then the verse in question form makes perfect sense, both from God’s perspective and to ours.

Why does God throw such a challenging question in Gog’s face? “Are you the one …?” God seems to be plainly declaring: “Gog: You are not the one! You are not the final world dictator. You are not the Antichrist who will come against the land and the people of Israel. You are not the one who will enter the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and who will declare himself to be the god of gods.”

Thus we can see and understand God’s immediate and supernatural reaction to Gog’s invasion of Israel. Gog believes he will have a sudden and decisive victory over Israel. But God sees it differently. Gog has no sanction from heaven for his invasion and it will end just as quickly as it begins. God is against Gog because Gog has ill intentions against Israel for his own purposes without any authorization from God. Gog is not the Antichrist. Gog is not the one!

About the Author

Douglas Berner is a retired Police Sergeant with a background in Criminal Investigations. He studied geology and criminology at Florida State University and received B.S. degrees in both fields. He has no theological training but has been a student of the Bible and Bible prophecy for over 25 years. He has expanded his interest in the Bible, geology, and archaeology by making four trips to Israel in the 1990’s, twice serving as a volunteer involved in archaeological research and field activities. He briefly lived in Israeli settlements in the West Bank during these archaeological trips. He is the author of The Silence is Broken! God Hooks Ezekiel’s Gog & Magog.

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