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GOG & MAGOG: PEACE

Updated: Dec 14, 2023

On Ezekiel's prophecy about the end of days, Ch. 39 in narrative format with insights from the teachings of Malbim.

by Rabbi Boruch Merkur



VERSES 1-5


And you, O mortal, prophesy what was not foretold by prophets before you. For it is said, “Are you the one spoken of in ancient times?” Declare this prophecy as I have chosen you for a purpose beyond what previous prophets have foreseen.


You will proclaim, “Behold, I turn to you, Gog.” You will prophesy that after his downfall, he will once again regroup and lead his armies against Jerusalem. “And I will bring you up from the far north,” as it predicts his second ascent towards the mountains of Israel for war.


When Gog invades the land of Israel, his downfall shall be swift. He will face immediate defeat upon crossing their borders and setting foot on their land. However, in a second attempt, he will advance further, reaching the mountains, and besiege Jerusalem.


And then I will fight against him and he will not be able to use his bow and arrows. The mountains of Israel will become your grave, where you will be devoured by birds and beasts. You will fall upon the open field like a plague, as my wrath descends upon the attackers of Jerusalem.” And just as it is written: “They shall fall upon the open field.”


VERSE 6


As punishment, I will unleash a fiery plague that will not only ravage Magog, his own land, but also spread to lands across the seas, where the inhabitants have lived in peace. They will come to understand my true power and realize that I am the Almighty.


VERSE 7


I will reveal My holy name to all. It is through this holiness that I will guide and elevate Israel above the natural ways of man. And I will not allow My name to be tainted, for they shall no longer say it is due to My lack of power. Until all nations bear witness to My presence in Israel, leading them with divine providence and miraculous guidance.


VERSE 8


Do you see it? The day is approaching, hidden and sealed by the Lord. Not one prophet or seer knows its true nature, nor can it be seen in visions or foretold. Only when the day arrives will my words come to life and be fulfilled in action.


VERSES 9-10


The inhabitants of the cities of Israel will go out, those who had not gone out to war until now, to collect the spoils. They will take the weaponry, not to be used for combat or self-defense, but for more productive purposes, such as burning them as fuel for warmth and cooking food. The shields, bucklers, bows and other armaments will become obsolete, as the Lord has promised: “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”


The weapons will be so plentiful that they can be used for firewood for seven years without needing to collect wood from the fields, as is commonly done in areas with sparse forests. In places with abundant forests and easily accessible wood, they will choose to gather the weapons instead due to their abundance. Some may suggest cutting down trees from nearby forests would be easier, but taking the weapons will be the preferred option: “They will despoil those who despoiled them and plunder those who plundered them, declares the Sovereign God.” They will also gather iron from any remaining weapons from their plunder, to repurpose these weapons as tools.


VERSES 11-12


And on that fateful day, just as Daniel prophesied about Gog, he will pitch his royal tents between the seas and the sacred Mount Zion. However, this will ultimately lead to his downfall.


That is, as they journey through the treacherous valley between two mountains, the king’s royal camp will approach the sea. Hindered by the terrain and unable to pass, the travelers will succumb to the wrath of the Lord as they attempt to return to their tents near the shore. Their final resting place will be in that very spot where they fall, buried in the sea.


The dead bodies of their enemies will be left to rot, as there will be no one left alive to bury them. However, the people of Israel will take it upon themselves to cleanse the land and rid it of the putrid stench and impurity. This somber task will span across seven long months, a grim reminder of the toll of war.


VERSE 13


The bodies will be buried according to the usual practice during a plague. It is important to be cautious, as those who have been left unburied for several days may emit decay and spread disease. Special individuals will be designated for this task, and people will take precautions around them to avoid contagion.


At that time, all the people of the land will come together to bury the dead. This will be a sign that they are protected by the Lord and do not fear contagion or plague, just as it is written, “You shall not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the pestilence that walks in darkness.” It shall be a day of great glory for the Lord, displaying His honor and special providence over Israel, shielding them from all harm, as it is written, “The Lord shall preserve you from all evil.”


VERSE 14


All able-bodied individuals will be assigned the task of burying the fallen soldiers near the battlefield. In addition, specific individuals will be tasked with traversing the land to bury those who perished from the plague during their invasion. These fallen enemies will be buried on site in order to purify the land.


The task at hand would be a lengthy one, spanning seven long months. In that time, the decaying flesh would attract scavengers, who would devour whatever remained of the slain. At the end of the seven months, there would be an effort to collect and properly bury any remaining bones. This search and inquiry would ensure that all remnants were respectfully marked and laid to rest.


VERSE 15


As they pass through the desolate land, seven months after the plague has ravaged it, they will come across human bones, a grim reminder of the devastation that occurred. In order to avoid contamination or further spread of the disease, the travelers will erect a marker near the bones and steer clear of the area.


This miraculous protection against the plague will only last for seven months before fading away. They will then mark the locations but refrain from coming into contact with the remains until the designated buriers arrive. They will collect the bones and bury them in the Valley of Hamon Gog.


VERSE 16


The valley will forever be known as the Valley of Hamon Gog, in memory of the fateful event that occurred there. Likewise, the city where they set up camp near the valley will bear the name City of Hamon Gog, serving as a reminder of the miraculous event and the downfall of those who opposed it. This designation serves to brand the city as a place of impurity, akin to the dwelling place of nations, ultimately leading to the purification of the land.


VERSE 17


And you, O mortal, explain why at the end of seven months there will be no more slain with flesh upon them. Because the Lord has prepared the beasts and birds to eat their flesh. This is what it means by saying to every kind of bird, “Gather yourselves.” The scattered ones will be gathered together, and after being collected, they will assemble the place of the slain.


VERSES 18-20


You shall eat the flesh of the mighty and drink the blood of the princes of the earth, rams, lambs, goats, bulls, all of them fatlings of Bashan. The quantity of the food being ample enough to satisfy, and the blood sufficient to cause drunkenness.


As you dine at My table, know that it will never be cleared. Even after the feast, the table will remain set, a reminder of the abundance and victory we have earned. The fallen enemies will provide for us, their horses and chariots now ours to use, and their bounty filling our plates.


VERSE 21


As promised, “I will spread My glory among the nations,” as stated in “And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations.” The nations will witness God’s glory in two distinct ways:


1. Through witnessing the judgments that God has executed upon them for their sins. The punishment they receive will be commensurate and precisely suited to their transgressions, reflecting the principle of “measure for measure.”


2. Through observing God’s power, as the punishment will occur through miraculous means, revealing the strong hand of the Lord.


VERSES 22-24


And they shall know, leading to two consequences:


1. To Israel, from that day onward, they will know that I am the Lord their God, with My divinity relating to them in a providential and miraculous guidance.


2. “And the nations shall know” ─ for at first it was a desecration of God’s name, in two respects:


a. About the exile, where it was said, “They are the people of the Lord, yet they have been driven out of His land.” Now the nations will know that the Jewish people were exiled due to their own sins, because they transgressed against Me, and therefore I hid my face from them.


b. The desecration of God’s name during the exile itself, as there were times when they were sold for slaughter, yet the Lord did not save them. Now it will be known that their falling by the sword and the devastations and decrees during the exile were due to their own impurity and transgressions. Therefore, I hid My face from them during the exile. Had it not been for their transgressions, they would not have been exiled, and had it not been for their sins, there would not have been a hiding of My face even during the exile.


VERSE 25


Therefore, I am driven by passion for My holy name; I cannot stand to see it desecrated, which is why I am vocal about ensuring its sanctity. Thus says the Lord, in response to the exile, I will now bring back the captives of Jacob, and in response to the troubles they suffered during the exile, I will have compassion on the house of Israel. Here the term “Jacob” refers to the ten tribes who were exiled and will eventually be restored to their rightful place. “Israel” refers to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, who have faced numerous tribulations and thus require compassion and understanding.


VERSE 26


The people will forget their shame, a result of being exiled and shamed for their sins. They will dwell securely on their own land and no longer be in exile, allowing them to finally forget their past transgressions..


VERSE 27


And I will be sanctified through them, says the Lord. When I bring them back from among the nations and gather them from the lands where they were scattered, it will be a great miracle recorded in many places. Through their good deeds and the miracles I perform for them, the Lord will be sanctified in the eyes of many nations. And through this, their transgressions will be forgotten.


VERSE 28-29


In the future, they will come to know and understand that even during their exile among foreign nations, I remained their Lord and guided them towards ultimate good.


The redemption by Cyrus the Great (son of King Achashverosh (Xerxes) and Queen Esther), who helped with the construction of the Second Holy Temple, was not true salvation, nor was it the appointed time for complete rectification.


This is because firstly, they returned to their land by the will of Cyrus, but in the future I will personally gather them back. Secondly, at that time, not all of them returned to the Land of Israel, but in the future, none will remain behind. Thirdly, in the past, He chose to conceal His face from them constantly, similar to the era of the Greeks and Romans. However, in the future, I will reveal Myself and not hide My presence any longer. Fourthly, the Holy Spirit and prophecy were taken away from them. It was said that “the word of the Lord was rare in the Second Temple.” However, there will come a day when I shall pour out My Spirit upon the house of Israel, and they will once again be blessed with the gift of prophecy and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.


Malbim then delves into the timing of this prophecy, situating it in the twenty-fifth year of Jehoiachin’s exile, which predates the Temple’s destruction by eleven years. This places Ezekiel’s revelation fourteen years post the calamity of Jerusalem, coinciding with the Jubilee year. He explains that the previous Jubilee occurred 36 years prior to the Temple’s destruction, during the 17th year of King Josiah’s reign, marking a period of liberation and renewal, symbolized by the blowing of the shofar on Yom Kippur and the emancipation of slaves.


In a note, Malbim acknowledges the divergence of his interpretation from that of Rabbi Judah’s in the Talmud. While he calculates the Jubilee as occurring during Ezekiel’s prophecy, Rabbi Judah views the Jubilee as part of a seven-week cycle, placing it 17 years earlier. Rabbi Judah’s perspective is rooted in his belief that the Jubilee year commences at its start, emphasizing the crucial role of the shofar blowing as per various rabbinic texts.


Finally, Malbim interprets the phrase, “The hand of the Lord was upon me,” as indicative of divine guidance leading Ezekiel towards profound and awe-inspiring visions, specifically transporting him to Jerusalem, the city that had suffered destruction. This interpretation underscores the depth of Ezekiel’s prophetic experience, driven by a direct and powerful connection with the divine.

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