Dark stormy clouds over the ocean (Photo by ongap). Hanukkah Menorah (Photo by Mishella)
Gog of Magog and the Maccabean Revolt
December 7, 164 B.C. Jerusalem
After the death of Alexander the Great and the subsequent division of his empire between his generals (Daniel 8:21-22, 11:3-4), arose the "wicked ruler" Antiochus Epiphanes IV, king of the Seleucid Empire (Daniel 8:23-25, 1 Maccabees 1:9-10). The reign of Antiochus and his brutal occupation of Israel (Daniel 8:24-25, 11:31) from 169 BC until the Jewish revolt initiated by a priest named Mattathias two years later (Daniel 11:32), fulfilled the prophecies of Ezekiel and Daniel. For example, Antiochus and his Seleucid Empire (based in Syria) were identified as the "king of the North" because it was located North of Israel (Daniel 11:28). Conversely, the "king of the South" referred to the Ptolemaic Kingdom (based in Egypt) and was located south of Israel (Daniel 11:25). Both Old Testament prophets ministered during the Jewish exile in Babylon, when Jerusalem and its 1st (Solomon's) temple were destroyed by then-King Nebuchadnezzar (634-562 BC), ruler of the world (Daniel 2:37-38). Jesus Christ celebrated what came to be known as the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22-23) in memory of the cleansing of the 2nd (Zerubbabel's) temple that was defiled by Antiochus (Daniel 11:31, 1 Maccabees 1:54-58). As we shall see, the Book of Maccabees provide a historical account of the events prophesied in Ezekiel 38-39 and Daniel 11.
The word of the Lord came to me: "Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshek and Tubal... Persia, Cush [upper Nile region] and Put [Libya] will be with them... also Gomer with all its troops, and Beth Togarmah from the far north with all its troops - the many nations with you."
Ezekiel the prophet in Ezekiel 38:1-6 (circa 585 BC)
The five nations, Magog , Meshek , Tubal , Gomer , and Beth Togarmah (Genesis 10:2-3, 1 Chronicles 1:5-6), described above were located in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) during Ezekiel's ministry. Antiochus Epiphanes IV expanded the territory of the Seleucid Empire (which already included Persia) when he invaded and captured the Ptolemaic Kingdom (upper Nile region and Libya) in 170 BC (1 Maccabees 1:16-19).
A great horde
I will turn you around, put hooks in your jaws and bring you out with your whole army - your horses, your horsemen fully armed, and a great horde with large and small shields, all of them brandishing their swords... all with shields and helmets...
Ezekiel the prophet in Ezekiel 38:4-6 (circa 585 BC)
Antiochus was south of Jerusalem attacking Egypt, when "he became as furious as a wild animal" and turned his army northward and invaded the land of Israel (Daniel 11:29-30, 2 Maccabees 5:11). Antiochus "ordered all the armies of his empire to assemble in one huge force" (1 Maccabees 3:27). Antiochus' army included "A thousand men, protected by chain armor and bronze helmets, [that] were stationed with each elephant. Each animal was also accompanied by a special force of 500 cavalry, 36 which always remained with the elephant... The sunlight, reflected off the bronze and gold shields, shone on the mountains and flashed like burning torches... All the people were terrified when they heard the noise made by the clashing of weapons and the marching of that great and powerful army" (1 Maccabees 6:35-41).
The historical account records that "Antiochus hated the Jews so much that he sent an army of 22,000 mercenary troops from Mysia to Jerusalem under the command of a man named Apollonius... who were fully armed, in a parade outside the city. Suddenly he commanded his men to kill everyone who had come out to see them. They rushed into the city and murdered a great many people" (2 Maccabees 5:23-26). "Judas Maccabeus looked at the huge enemy force, the variety of their weapons, and their fierce elephants. Then he raised his hands toward heaven and prayed to the Lord, who works miracles, because he knew that the Lord gives victory to those who deserve it, not to those who have a strong army [Judges 7:1-8]" (2 Maccabees 15:21).
After many days you will be called to arms. In future years you will invade a land that has recovered from war, whose people were gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate. They had been brought out from the nations, and now all of them live in safety.
Ezekiel the prophet in Ezekiel 38:8 (circa 585 BC)
The context of the passage above tells us that Israel would be invaded after their return from exile in Babylon. This is evident since Ezekiel was himself exiled in 597 BC. Exiled Jews returned to Israel seventy years later in 527 BC. In the 2nd-century BC, right before the invasion, Jerusalem was defenseless and "enjoyed peace and prosperity" (2 Maccabees 3:1).
You and all your troops and the many nations with you will go up, advancing like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land.
Ezekiel the prophet in Ezekiel 38:9 (circa 585 BC)
In 169 BC, Antiochus "marched with a great army against the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem" (1 Maccabees 1:20) and "took Jerusalem by storm" (2 Maccabees 5:11). Two years later, he sent a "large army from Mysia against the towns of Judea", that at first pretended to offer peace to its residents, but then "suddenly launched a fierce attack on the city" (1 Maccabees 1:29-30). By 167 BC, "Every nation in the world has occupied the city [Jerusalem] and robbed her of her possessions" (1 Maccabees 2:10). Israel had been "under constant attack by surrounding nations" (1 Maccabees 12:13). In addition, "All the surrounding nations now tried to destroy them. They thought that the Jews had no leaders or allies and that the time was ripe to annihilate them and put an end to their history" (1 Maccabees 12:53).
Israel plundered and looted
On that day thoughts will come into your mind and you will devise an evil scheme. You will say, "I will invade a land of unwalled villages; I will attack a peaceful and unsuspecting people - all of them living without walls and without gates and bars. I will plunder and loot and turn my hand against the resettled ruins and the people gathered from the nations, rich in livestock and goods, living at the center of the land."
Ezekiel the prophet in Ezekiel 38:10-12 (circa 585 BC)
After plundering the Ptolemaic Kingdom, Antiochus travelled north and "marched with a great army against the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem" (Daniel 11:29-30, 1 Maccabees 1:20). "In his arrogance, he entered the Temple and took away the gold altar, the lampstand with all its equipment, the table for the bread offered to the Lord, the cups and bowls, the gold fire pans, the curtain, and the crowns. He also stripped all the gold from the front of the Temple and carried off the silver and gold and everything else of value, including all the treasures that he could find stored there. Then he took it all to his own country. He had also murdered many people and boasted arrogantly about it" (1 Maccabees 1:21-24). Two years later, Antiochus sent another "large army... [and] plundered the city, set it on fire, and tore down its buildings and walls. He and his army took the women and children as prisoners and seized the cattle" (1 Maccabees 1:29-32). It was at this time, "On the fifteenth day of the month of Kislev in the year 167 BC, King Antiochus set up The Awful Horror on the altar of the Temple..." (Daniel 11:31, 1 Maccabees 1:54).
Foretold by the prophets
You are the one I spoke of in former days by my servants the prophets of Israel. At that time they prophesied for years that I would bring you against them.
Ezekiel the prophet in Ezekiel 38:17 (circa 585 BC)
Ezekiel may be referring to an older prophecy by Micah, who foretold of a time "when the Assyrians invade our land and march through our fortresses. We will raise against them seven shepherds, even eight commanders" (Micah 5:5). Micah prophesied 165 years before Ezekiel from about 750 to 700 .C. The territory of the Seleucid Empire was initially ruled by the Assyrians (745-612 BC) . The Lord raised up eight shepherds and commanders from the family of a priest named Mattathias (1 Maccabees 2:1-2, 5:62). He had five sons, John, Simon (1 Maccabees 5:55, 12:33), Judas, Eleazar, Jonathan (1 Maccabees 9:31), in addition to two grandsons, John and Judas (1 Maccabees 16:2-3), with whom he led the revolt against the invading Seleucids. It was these eight, faithful Jews by whom "He [the Lord] will deliver us from the Assyrians when they invade our land and march across our borders" (Micah 5:6).
The Lord's presence
In my zeal and fiery wrath I declare that at that time there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. The fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the beasts of the field, every creature that moves along the ground, and all the people on the face of the earth will tremble at my presence. The mountains will be overturned, the cliffs will crumble and every wall will fall to the ground.
Ezekiel the prophet in Ezekiel 38:19-20 (circa 585 BC)
During a particular battle in 160 BC when 800 Jewish patriots were confronted by 22,000 Syrian fighters, it was reported that "The ground shook from the noise when the two armies met, and they fought from morning until evening" (1 Maccabees 9:13). The author of Maccabees attributes this phenomenon to trumpet blasts implemented by both armies. In addition, a paleoseismic study of the Serghaya fault (Syrian-Lebanese border) and historical texts provide evidence of an earthquake at Antioch that triggered a tsunami between Tyre and Ptolemais during the same time period (i.e., mid 2nd century BC). As a result, a "city above Sidon collapsed into the sea and nearly two thirds of Sidon itself was engulfed" . Damascus, the current capital city of Syria and located 180 miles south of Antioch, was subdued by and payed tribute to Israel during King David's reign (2 Samuel 8:5-6). There was another earthquake in Judea later in 31 BC, "such a one as had not happened at any other time, and which earthquake brought a great destruction upon the cattle in that country. About ten thousand men also perished by the fall of houses; but the army, which lodged in the field, received no damage by this sad accident" .
I will summon a sword against Gog on all my mountains, declares the Sovereign Lord. Every man's sword will be against his brother.
Ezekiel the prophet in Ezekiel 38:21 (circa 585 BC)
At the time, there arose a "group of traitorous Jews who had no regard for the Law" that allied themselves with Antiochus and practiced "Gentile customs" (1 Maccabees 1:11-15). Antiochus and his forces "brought in a group of traitorous Jews and installed them there [in the area north of the Temple]" (Daniel 11:30, 1 Maccabees 1:34). Mattathias and a "group of devout and patriotic Jews" fought against the apostate Jews and forced the survivors to "flee to the Gentiles for safety" (Daniel 11:32, 1 Maccabees 2:42-44). Also, "Jason and his men went on slaughtering their fellow Jews without mercy. Jason did not realize that success against one's own people is the worst kind of failure" (2 Maccabees 5:6). And again, "the enemy forces were thrown into panic by a vision sent by God, who sees everything. In terror they began to run wildly about and many of them were wounded by the swords of their own men" (2 Maccabees 12:22).
I will execute judgment on him with plague and bloodshed; I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him.
Ezekiel the prophet in Ezekiel 38:22 (circa 585 BC)
"Also at that time there was a severe famine, and the whole country went over to the side of the renegades" (1 Maccabees 9:24). "The Jews slaughtered so many people that a nearby lake, which was about a quarter of a mile wide, seemed to be overflowing with blood" (2 Maccabees 12:16). "Trypho got all his cavalry ready for the invasion, but that night there was a heavy snowstorm, and he was not able to move up into the hills" (1 Maccabees 13:22). Acid rain, produced by an over abundance of atmospheric sulfur, can be caused by erupting volcanos or rotting vegetation .
God is glorified
And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord.
Ezekiel the prophet in Ezekiel 38:23 (circa 585 BC)
God-honoring Jews, led by Judas Maccabeus and whose army was outnumbered by the invaders, believed "the Lord will crush our enemies" (1 Maccabees 3:22). The Lord gave them victory, so that "Gentiles everywhere began to be afraid of Judas and his brothers. His fame reached the ears of King Antiochus, and people in every nation talked about Judas and his victories" (1 Maccabees 3:25-26). Devout Jews had also pulled down the abomination and cleansed the temple. As a result, Antiochus Epiphanes IV, king of the Seleucid Empire, became ill and confessed his wickedness:
It is right that all mortals should be subject to God and not think that they are his equal. The time of the Lord's mercy had come to an end for Antiochus, but this worthless man made the Lord a promise: I once intended to level Jerusalem to the ground and make that holy city a graveyard full of Jews, he said, but now I declare it a free city. I had planned to throw out the dead bodies of the Jews and their children for the wild animals and the birds to eat, for I did not consider them worth burying. But now I intend to grant them the same privileges as the citizens of Athens enjoy. I once looted the Temple and took its sacred utensils, but I will fill it with splendid gifts and with better utensils than before, and I will pay the cost of the sacrifices from my own resources. Besides all this, I will become a Jew myself and go wherever people live, telling them of God's power... My hope is in God.
Antiochus Epiphanes IV in 2 Maccabees 9:12-20 (circa 163 BC)
Ezekiel continues the Gog of Magog prophecy in chapter 39. Although it provides some additional details, it is mostly a reaffirmation of the previous chapter as discussed above. However, the passage does reveal some unique points. For example: "For seven years they [Israel] will use them [the defeated enemy's weapons] for fuel" (Ezekiel 39:9-10), and "For seven months the Israelites will be burying them [the defeated enemy's bodies] in order to cleanse the land" (Ezekiel 39:12-14). History does not provide corroboration of Israel using their enemy's weapons as fuel for seven years or burying dead bodies for seven months. However, this is not hard to imagine considering the size of the invading armies. One point that Ezekiel makes in the last section of chapter 39 is revealing:
I will gather them to their own land, not leaving any behind. I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the people of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord.
Ezekiel the prophet in Ezekiel 39:28-29 (circa 585 BC)
Since Ezekiel was prophesying while himself an exile in Babylon, it is clear that he was referring to the return of Israel from the same exile, rather than another future event. The Lord would in fact, pour out His Spirit on the people of Israel, in addition to "all people", on Pentecost as the apostle Peter confirmed (Acts 2:16-18). This was in fulfillment of Joel's prophecy (Joel 2:28-29) as well as that of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 39:28-29).
Specifically, the Lord already poured out his "Spirit on the people of Israel" in the 1st-century AD when he saved the "remnant" Jews that the apostle Paul cited (Romans 9:27, 11:5; see also Isaiah 10:22) and the "sealed" Jews that the apostle John described (Revelation 7:4). These were also called the "firstfruits" redeemed from the tribes of Israel (Revelation 14:4) right before the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and its 3rd (Herod's) temple in 70 AD.
Future Gog and Magog Attack
The apostle John's reference to Gog and Magog in Revelation 20:7-10 indicates that there will be some kind of repeat of the Gog and Magog attack described in Ezekiel 38-39. This will occur sometime in the future after the thousand years (i.e., an indefinite period of time that began circa 70 AD) are finished (Revelation 20:7). John describes Gog and Magog surrounding the "camp of God's people, the city he loves" (Revelation 20:9). God's people are saved Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ. The city that God loves is not to be confused with modern-day Jerusalem, since Jesus already declared the apostate city rejected and desolate (Luke 19:41-44) circa 30 AD. In addition, New Testament writers refer to the New and Holy Jerusalem in Heaven as the home of God's people (Galatians 4:24-26, Hebrews 11:16, Revelation 3:12). Also, the Lord called his disciples a "city set on a hill [which] cannot be hidden" (Matthew 5:14). Clearly, the city that God loves is more than likely a reference to the Church, not the earthly and secular city of modern-day Jerusalem.
This dual fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy is similar to Hosea's prophecy which states, "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son" (Hosea 11:1). Hosea's prophecy declares the fulfillment of God's promise to deliver "Israel [is] my firstborn son" out of slavery in Egypt (Exodus 4:22-23). What is more, the apostle Matthew states that Hosea's prophecy was also fulfilled by Jesus' departure out of Egypt (Matthew 2:14-15). Even though both Hosea and Matthew claim the fulfillment of God's promise in their writings, this does not mean that every Old Testament prophecy must have a future, dual fulfillment. Both Matthew and John's testimony were inspired and authorized by God (2 Timothy 3:16), whereas contemporary Christian Futurists have no such license (Proverbs 30:5-6, Revelation 22:18-19).
Sabz, S. (2015, December 7). Gog of Magog and the Maccabean Revolt. Retrieved from https://scienceandbibleresearch.com/gog-magog-maccabean-revolt.html