I have several questions about the book of Ezekiel. First, how could Ezekiel 4:14 mention Daniel when Daniel came after Ezekiel? Second, does Ezekiel 38:8 refer to Russia (Gog)? Just what was Ezekiel prophesying about? Have these events happened yet?
First, I commend you for even asking questions from Ezekiel, a book we don’t often study in Sunday School and church. Many scholars agree that Ezekiel is the most neglected of all the prophetic books and perhaps of the whole Bible! Possibly believers have neglected this book because Ezekiel contains so much symbolism, as well as visions and parables. However, we must remember that this book is just as much a part of God’s inspired Word as any other book in the canon. Its contents are designed to amplify, not obscure, the truth.
Ezekiel 1:3 tells us that the priest Ezekiel probably never got to serve as a priest because he was taken captive to Babylon during the reign of King Jehoiachin (see 2 Kings 24:10–16). That reign lasted only three months! Defenseless Jerusalem soon fell to Nebuchadnezzar, and Jehoiachin was carried away with the other Hebrews during this second deportation. The king then spent 36 years in prison in Babylon. Upon Nebuchadnezzar’s death, Jehoiachin was released, but apparently he never saw his homeland again.
This second deportation to Babylon occurred in 597 B.C. The first two verses of the book of Ezekiel tell us that Ezekiel’s ministry began in the fourth month on the fifth day of the fifth year of the exile of Jehoiachin. Apparently Ezekiel was 30 years old when the word of the Lord came to him.
At this point we answer your first question. Daniel was a boy when he was taken captive during the first deportation to Babylon in 604 B.C. in the fourth year of Jehoiakim. Do you see the closeness of these dates? Ezekiel and Daniel were contemporaries. Daniel did not arrive on the scene after Ezekiel. Daniel’s character and godliness would have been well known when Ezekiel wrote these words. When we read Daniel 1:4, 17, and 20, we get the picture that Daniel stood out as a godly person even in his childhood. He would have been past the age of 30 when Ezekiel wrote about him in Ezekiel 14:14.
Some scholars have questioned Daniel’s name being placed in the middle of Noah and Job. This placement appears as an error to them, since it isn’t a chronological order of when those men lived. But Ezekiel may not have intended to have a “chronological” list, but listed them in that order for some other reason—or for no particular reason.
Some have seen another “problem” in this passage: whether or not the Daniel listed is the well-known Daniel or some other person by the same name. They have suggested a mythical character with a similarly spelled name. But that possibility is extremely unlikely, and it doesn’t fit in with the character of Ezekiel. The Biblical Daniel fits perfectly. And, again, he would have been well known during Ezekiel’s time.
Toward the end of the book of Ezekiel we find a distinct prophecy that a future confederacy of nations will invade Israel. So we come to the second part of your question. Immediately we wonder when this prophecy will take place and which nations will form this confederacy. Scholars vary in their views of when this unification will occur—from some time in the closing days of this Church Age to the early days of the Millennium. We as Bible-believing dispensationalists place it in the Tribulation period. Perhaps it will occur in the first part of the Tribulation, when Israel’s covenant with Antichrist has taken effect and she is enjoying a peaceful time (see Dan. 9:27) and feeling secure. Verses 8 and 11 of Ezekiel 38 indicate it will take place during a time of peace.
So we have Gog, a prince, and Magog, his land, invading Palestine, a picture of a great federation of nations. Which nations are they? Verse 2 of Ezekiel 38 tells us: “Son of man, set thy face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him” (ASV). Verses 5 and 6 add, “Persia, Cush, and Put with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer, and all his hordes; the house of Togarmah in the uttermost parts of the north, and all his hordes; even many peoples with thee.”
First is Rosh. It sounds like Russia, doesn’t it? At this point we need to exercise caution. We must not conclude that any of these places are countries with similar-sounding names. However, in this case Rosh might well have to do with Russia, as Ezekiel describes the armies as having come down from the north (38:6, 15; 39:2). Also, some of the countries named by Ezekiel were located in what has in recent years been Russia.
In the past decades we have seen how easily Russia could be the Rosh here. The “evil empire” has had its allies and cronies all over the world, even 90 miles from the shores of the United States. Even with the recent collapse of communism, we have no reason to believe that a future government in that area of the globe couldn’t do worldwide mischief. Many experts believe that the current situation is a brief interlude. Christian missionary work is feverishly going on in Russia and the nations surrounding her, with the view that the open door could close at any time.
Other scholars maintain that Rosh points to modem-day Iran. Bible scholars down through the years have determined from Scripture and historical data that Meshech and Tubal refer to modern-day Turkey; Persia means Iran; Cush is Sudan and possibly a part of Egypt and northern Ethiopia; Put is Libya. Thoughts on Gomer range from its being Germany through Ukraine and on down to Turkey; and Togarmah is seen as Armenia and/or some of Turkey.
Why will this battle take place? It will occur for many of the reasons nations have fought any battle. Politically, there is advantage in seizing valuable land. Geographically, Israel is in the most strategic place in the whole world. Materially, Israel will have much to offer as well. Ezekiel 38:10–13 indicates that the enemy will plunder and loot the nation because it is rich in livestock and goods.
Above all, the battle will be fought because God has said it will happen. He, in effect, is behind it to accomplish His divine purposes. God warned, “In days to come, O Gog, I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know me when I show myself holy through you before their eyes” (38:16, NIV). Verse 9 indicates that the enemy will move fast and effortlessly against Israel (“like a cloud covering the land”). But God will move in swiftly on Israel’s behalf to destroy this federation that will have been such a plague:
On the mountains of Israel you will fall, you and all your troops and the nations with you. I will give you as food to all kinds of carrion birds and to the wild animals. You will fall in the open field, for I have spoken, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will send fire on Magog and on those who live in safety in the coastlands, and they will know that I am the Loan (39:4–6, NIV).
After this battle, Antichrist will continue to rule. Scripture records that at the end of the Tribulation, the greatest battle of all time, the Battle of Armageddon (Rev. 19:17–21), will take place. This battle will usher in Christ’s second coming. It will be the war to end all wars, except for one last gasp of rebellion at the end of the Millennium (Rev. 20:7–10), after which God will doom Satan and will cast him and his company into the Lake of Fire forever.
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