Harry Whittaker
Five Minutes To Twelve

6. The Northern Invasion

It will be seen by and by, that this chapter is almost certainly out of place chronologically. But it becomes necessary to deal with it here because of certain mistaken assumptions of a serious character which are very commonly made about Ezekiel 38, and which tend to cloud understanding of other Scriptures.

All students of Bible prophecy are aware that Ezekiel 38, 39 describe in vivid fashion an invasion of the Land of Israel in the Last Days. This invasion, headed by Russia ("the uttermost parts of the north" RV is halted by a dramatic outpouring of divine judgment. Thus the whole world is made to recognise this assertion of the authority of God; and Israel, exalted as never before to be God's favoured nation, sighs with relief and thankfulness that at last all their tribulations are at an end. The kingdom of God has arrived.

The serious error, which has crept into the understanding of this terrific prophecy, is in the assumption that this northern invasion will inaugurate the great crisis of the end-time and will culminate in the coming of the Messiah and the establishing of his Kingdom.

In fact, all the details in these chapters, save one (to be examined in due course) point to a different conclusion, namely, that Ezekiel 38, 39 will be fulfilled after Christ has returned and begun his reign as King of the Holy Land.

  1. It was the late Peter Watkins who pointed out very incisively that Ezekiel 37, 38, 39 are to be read as one prophecy. It cannot be accident that ch. 37 begins with the dry bones of Israel scattered in Gentile lands (Ez. 37: 21), and ch. 39: 11 speaks of Gentile bones scattered in Israel's Land. If this is accepted, then what of the fine picture presented in ch. 37 of God's tabernacle planted in the midst of a sanctified Israel, and "my servant David being their prince for ever" (37: 25,27)? The northern invasion follows on after this.
  2. Repeatedly Israel is described as "dwelling safely" or "securely" (38: 8,11; 39: 26). This is a phrase which, in the prophets, is always associated with the Kingdom; e.g. Ez. 34: 25,27,28; Hos. 2: 18; Zec.14: 11.

    Then ought not the same meaning to dominate these passages in ch.38, 39 also? On the other hand, can it be said, with any stretch of imagination, in 1989, or in any succeeding year before Messiah's coming, that Israel dwells safely? In July of 1988 the Jewish Chronicle carried a especially prominent leading article headed: "The Six Hour War". Its purpose was to draw attention to the fact that the Arab nations round Israel are now in a position to bring Israel to its knees in such a sensational fashion as will make the 1967 Six Day War look like a boy-scout exercise. More on this in chapter 8.

  3. "Dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates" (38:11) is a strange way of describing a people, which spends a higher percentage of its national income on armaments than any other nation on the face of the earth. But, apply the words to Israel dwelling in peace under its Messiah ("first that which is natural, then that which is spiritual"), and there is no difficulty. On the other hand Zechariah 2:4,5 uses very similar language about Jerusalem in its Kingdom Glory
  4. The invader is intent on carrying away "silver and gold, cattle and goods- a great spoil" (38: 13). But with Israel as it is today, what nation would risk an international conflagration for the sake of appropriating little Israel's dubious wealth? Those enthusiasts intent on making this prophecy pre-Messianic skate round the difficulty here by turning "spoil" into OIL- a most un- Biblical conclusion, for, the gross misapplication of Deuteronomy 33: 24 notwithstanding, only the tiniest trickle of oil has ever been found in Israel. Israel is the only Middle East country without oil. Of course, for did not God burn up all the oil of that Land when He destroyed the cities of the plain?
  5. Some readers will also appreciate this point. The only other Gog-Magog prophecy is in Revelation 20: 8. Normally these two Scriptures - Ez. 38; Rev. 20 -would be used to interpret each other, according to the well established method of Bible study. In "The Last Days" ch.13 and in " Revelation - a Biblical Approach" ch. 38, identification of these two passages has been argued for, and difficulties cleared, thus leaving the way to refer Ezekiel 38 to an international rebellion against Messiah in the early days of his reign, for certainly Revelation 20 describes what happens after Messiah's coming.
  6. It can now be readily perceived that Ezekiel 38 is a parallel prophecy to Psalm 2: "The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His Anointed... Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion" (2,6). The experience of David after his capture of Jerusalem (2 Sam. 8) makes an impressive prototype.
Over against this accumulation of details all pointing to the same conclusion there is (so it is believed) only one passage which might be read as pointing to the alternative conclusion:

"After that they have borne their shame. . . when they dwelt safely in their land, and none made them afraid" (Ez. 39: 26).

These words have been read as meaning that the deliverance of Israel comes before their repentance, and before their Messiah appears.

However, this turns out to be a very unsure prop for such an interpretation:

  1. There is a double textual doubt about the reading of the Hebrew word translated "bear". Tanakh 1985 J.P.S. has a special footnote at this verse, reading ´´bear", or “forget”. (Technicalities omitted here for simplicity's sake).
  2. There is an elided consonant, which may be supplied in more than one way, leading possibly to a different double meaning Hebrew word.
  3. The A.V. reading is inexact here.
  4. Thus an equally possible reading could be: "and they shall forget their shame. . ." - a very different idea from what has just been mentioned.
  5. "When they dwelt safely. . ." is, more exactly: "in their dwelling safely". What has been advanced earlier about this phrase also needs to be borne in mind here.
This 39: 26 AV reading is surely too precarious to lean on, especially when contrasted with the contrary evidence already set out.

Thus the overwhelming evidence is that this prophecy will be fulfilled after the coming of the Lord and not before it.

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