By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
Throughout Ezekiel 38 and 39, we are told about a war that a will take place some time during the Christian Age.
In this war, the enemies of God will attack “Israel” and (by all appearances) will destroy God’s people.
However, He intervenes and the enemies of God are defeated.
In this article, we are going to notice the identities of the specific nations which are mentioned in this passage (saving the identity of “Israel” for last).
The Hostile Nations
We are told about several nations that attack Israel.
Let’s notice the list of nations here recorded, and see who their descendants are today.
The first nation mentioned in this list is that of Magog. (Notice: Gog is said to be a powerful leader who comes from the land of Magog).
Magog is first mentioned back in the Book of Genesis, in what is known as the Table of Nations (Genesis 10).
Let me point out that while many people mock the list of nations recorded in Genesis 10, those who have set themselves to study the authenticity of this record have been amazed at its’ accuracy.
For example, one inquisitive investigator named Bill Cooper records:
“When I first came across this problem some fifty years ago, I found it most perplexing. On the one hand I had the Bible itself claiming to be the very Word of God, and on the other I was presented with numerous commentaries that spoke with one voice in telling me that the Bible was nothing of the kind. It was merely a hotch- potch collection of Middle- Eastern myths and fables that sought to explain the world in primitive terms, whose parts had been patched together by a series of later editors. Modem scientific man need have nothing whatever to do with it. Now, it simply was not possible for both these claims to be valid. Only one of them could be right, and I saw it as my duty, to myself at least, to find out which was the true account and which was the false….Either way, I would discover once and for all whether the Biblical record was worthy of my trust or not. It seemed a little irreverent to treat a book that claimed to be the very Word of God in such a fashion. But if truth has any substance at all, then that Book would surely be able to bear such a test. If Genesis contained any falsehood, error or misleading statement of fact, then a severe testing would reveal it and I would be the first to add my own voice to those of all the other scholars who declared the Book of Genesis to be little more than fable…What I had not expected at the time was the fact that the task was to engage my attention and energies for more than twenty- five years. Nor had I expected the astonishing degree to which Genesis, particularly the tenth and eleventh chapters, was to be vindicated. These chapters are conveniently known to scholars as the Table of Nations, and the sheer breadth and depth of the historical evidence that was available for their study astonished me….Today I can say that the names so far vindicated in the Table of Nations make up over 99% of the list, and I shall make no further comment on that other than to say that no other ancient historical document of purely human authorship could be expected to yield such a level of corroboration as that!” (Bill Cooper, After The Flood: The Early Post-Flood History Of Europe Traced Back To Noah, 80-111 (emphasis added, M.T.), (Kindle Edition))
Genesis 10 recorded the descendants of the nations from Ham, Shem, and Japheth (the sons of Noah) after the Flood, and after the Tower of Babel incident.
We first find Magog being mentioned in this passage:
Genesis 10:1-2-1 Now this is the genealogy of the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And sons were born to them after the flood. 2 The sons of Japheth were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras.
We are told in several ancient Hebrew history books that the descendants of Magog settled in the land of Scythia.
“Magog founded those that from him were named Magogites, but who are by the Greeks called Scythians. ” (Josephus, Antiquities Of The Jews,. 1.6.1)
The ancient book of Jasher (which is not inspired Scripture but is highly recommended for study by the Scriptures-Joshua 10:13; 2 Timothy 3:8), records that some of the descendants of Magog settled in other parts of Scythia:
Book Of Jasher 10:14-14 And the children of Meshech are the Shibashni and the children of Tiras are Rushash, Cushni, and Ongolis; all these went and built themselves cities; those are the cities that are situate by the sea Jabus by the river Cura, which empties itself in the river Tragan.
Another Jewish history book records:
Book Of Jubilees 9:9-Magog (dwells in)_ all the inner portions of the north until it reaches to the sea of Me’at.”
Finally, it would be well to note that the Irish historian Geoffrey of Monmouth (in Historian Regum Britanniae) reported that Magog crowned his firstborn son, Boath, as the first king of Scythia.
Now, all of these historians point out that Magog settled in the land of Scythia.
What land is that in our day and age?
In fact, it is noteworthy that in the reference from Jasher (mentioned above), the descendants of Magog are said to settle near the river Tragan. This was an ancient name for the river known today as the Volga River.
Interestingly enough, there is a famous city that exists there to this day:
It also needs to be pointed out however that Magog and his descendants actually are the ancestors of other nations.
“There later follows a succession of strange and ancient names, of which the table of descent that opens this chapter is a somewhat simplified extract. The important thing for us to notice in this table of descent, though, is the unequivocal statement that the decidedly pagan Irish traced their origins back to the Biblical patriarch, Magog, the son of Japheth. This is in direct contrast to the claims of the Britons and other European nations, whose genealogies were traced back to Javan, another son of Japheth. Now, Magog, as we shall see in Appendix 3, was considered, with Ashchenaz, the father of the Scythian peoples, and the early Irish chroniclers were most emphatic in their insistence that the Irish were of Scythian stock. And there is good etymological evidence for this. The Irish were long referred to as Scots even before some of them migrated to the country that today bears their name, and as Brewer tells us: “Scot (is) the same as Scythian in etymology; the root of both is Sct. The Greeks had no c, and would change t into th making the root skth, and by adding a phonetic vowel we get Skuthai (Scythians), and Skodiai (Skoths). The Welsh disliked s at the beginning of a word, and would change it to ys; they would also change c or k to g, and th to d; whence the Welsh root would be Ysgd, and Skuth or Skoth would become ysgod. Once more, the Saxons would cut off the Welsh y, and change the g back again to c, and the d to t, converting the Ysgod to Scot.” 9 It would be no strange thing to find Scythian peoples as far west as Ireland. After all, the land in Asia Minor known of old as Galatia, was populated by a migrating colony of Gallic Celts (the Gauls) from whom the country got its name. St Paul wrote his famous epistle to their descendants. Many other examples from history are known of nations seemingly popping up in places where one would normally not expect to find them, so it requires no great stretch of the imagination to accept what the early Irish chroniclers so often insisted upon, namely their descent from the Scythian races.” (Bill Cooper, After The Flood: The Early Post-Flood History Of Europe Traced Back To Noah, 1473-1482 (Kindle Edition))
The descendants of Magog included the peoples of Russia and Ireland.
The Connection To Rome
There is another important fact that needs to be pointed out about Magog.
Despite the evidence listed above, some scholars have pointed out that the connection with Magog to Russia is not accurate.
Instead, it is pointed out that in Ezekiel’s day, there was a nation that was known as Magog!
“In his multi-volume work called The Natural History, Pliny identifies the ancient Lydian city of Hierapolis as being part of Magog. Built atop the cliffs, the city of Hierapolis controlled the water supply of the Lydian city of Laodicea six miles to the south. The city of Hierapolis was built by the Lydians and always under Lydian control until the Lydian Kingdom became part of the Persian Empire in 546 BC and then part of the Greek and Roman Empires that followed. Like Pliny, today’s archeologists also identify Magog with the ancient nation of Lydia, which was in western Asia Minor. Indeed, written records from the Assyrian royal court show that the Assyrians used the name Magog as an eponym for the nation of Lydia. In his book Pliny writes, “Bambyx the other name of which is Hierapolis, but by the Syrians called Magog.”* In other words, Pliny identifies the famed Lydian city of Hierapolis as being part of Magog. In this we see that Magog is another name for the ancient nation of Lydia….The identification of Magog with Lydia and not Scythia is consistent with the ancient texts of the Assyrians, who at various times were either the allies or the foes of the Scythians yet had peaceful dealings with the Lydians. The identification of Magog as Lydian, and not Scythian is also consistent with the writings of the ancient historian Herodotus (ca 490-424 BC), a Greek who was born in, lived in, and traveled throughout all of ancient Asia Minor. Herodotus’ famed book, The History, which gives a detailed history of all the ancient nations of Asia Minor, was written about 100 years after Ezekiel’s writings. 14 Herodotus, who is considered the Father of History, wrote detailed information about the three different Scythian tribes and the ten different tribes that neighbored them, including their ever changing and opportunistic alliances….He says that Magog (Lydia), as led by the historical figure Gog (Gyges to the Greek, Gugu to the Assyrians) and the Scythians, were in fact enemies! In Gyges of Lydia we have the leader the Assyrians called “Gugu, King of Ludu,” and “Gugu of Magugu,” the Bible’s Gog of Magog. 15” (Jeffrey Goodman, Ph.D., The Comets Of God: New Scientific Evidence For God-Recent Archaeological, Geological, And Astronomical Discoveries That Shine New Light On The Bible And Its’ Prophecies, 473-476 (Kindle Edition); Tucson, ARIZONA; Archaeological Research Books L.L.C.).
Now, here is the fascinating thing about Magog (Lydia): it was one of the leading nations that eventually formed the Roman Empire.
Throughout several Old Testament prophecies, the nation of Rome is seen to be the archenemy of God’s people.
In fact, the wickedness that began through pagan Rome worked its’ way down through papal Rome, trying in every way to destroy the church of Christ (Daniel 2:36-44; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12).
In regards to the identification of Magog, I personally believe that both of these interpretations (connecting Magog with Russia and Rome) have some elements of truth in them.
It seems undeniable that there is a connection between Russia and Magog; but it also seems undeniable that there is a connection between Magog and Rome.
The next interesting nation that is mentioned here is found in verse 2.
Ezekiel 38:2-“Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him,
In verse two, we are told about the prince of “Rosh.”
Now, it is very likely that your Bible translation will not use this word. Notice how this passage is translated in different translations:
Ezekiel 38:2 (KJV)-Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him,
Ezekiel 38:2 (ASV)-Son of man, set thy face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him,
Some of the translations use the word “Rosh,” while others simply translate this as “chief prince.”
There is confusion about exactly how to translate this word.
You see, it could be a word that simply means “the ruler.”
Or, it could be a personal noun.
Some investigators have pointed out that this was possibly an ancient designation for the nation of Russia.
Let’s notice some of the interesting facts regarding this issue:
“Bible scholars have often identified Rosh with Russia. But this conclusion has not been unanimous. Two key questions must be answered to properly identify Rosh: (1) Is Rosh a common noun or a proper name? and (2) Does Rosh have any relation to Russia? The word rosh in Hebrew simply means “head, top, summit, or chief.” It is a very common word used in all Semitic languages. Most Bible translations translate rosh as a common noun—“ chief.” The King James Version, Revised Standard Version, English Standard Version, New American Bible, New Living Translation, and New International Version all adopt this translation. However, the Jerusalem Bible, New English Bible, and New American Standard Bible all translate Rosh as a proper name indicating a geographical location. The weight of evidence favors translating Rosh in Ezekiel 38–39 as a proper name. Five arguments support this view. First, the eminent Hebrew scholars C. F. Keil and Wilhelm Gesenius both hold that a proper noun is the better translation of Rosh in Ezekiel 38: 2-3 and 39: 1, referring to a specific geographical location. 214 Second, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, translates Rosh as the proper name Ros. This translation is especially significant since the Septuagint was translated only three centuries after Ezekiel was written—obviously much closer to the original than any modern translation. The modern translations of Rosh as an adjective can be traced to the Latin Vulgate of Jerome. 215 Third, in their articles on Rosh, many Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias (New Bible Dictionary, Wycliffe Bible Dictionary, and International Standard Bible Encyclopedia) support taking it as a proper name in Ezekiel 38. Fourth, Rosh is mentioned the first time in Ezekiel 38: 2 and then repeated in Ezekiel 38: 3 and 39: 1. If Rosh were simply a title, it would be dropped in these two places, because when titles are repeated in Hebrew, they are generally abbreviated. Fifth, the most impressive evidence in favor of taking Rosh as a proper name is simply that this translation in this context is the most natural. G. A. Cooke translates Ezekiel 38: 2, “the chief of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal.” He calls this “the most natural way of rendering the Hebrew.”…There are two key reasons for understanding Rosh in Ezekiel 38–39 as a reference to Russia. First, linguistically and historically, there is substantial evidence that in Ezekiel’s day there was a group of people known variously as Rash, Reshu, or Ros who lived in what today is southern Russia. 217 Egyptian inscriptions as early as 2600 BC identify a place called Rosh (Rash). A later Egyptian inscription from about 1500 BC refers to a land called Reshu that was located to the north of Egypt. 218 Other ancient documents include a place named Rosh or its equivalent in various languages. The word appears three times in the Septuagint (LXX), ten times in Sargon’s inscriptions, once in Ashurbanipal’s cylinder, once in Sennacherib’s annals, and five times in Ugaritic tablets. 219 While the word has a variety of forms and spellings, it is clear that the same people are in view. Rosh was apparently a well-known place in Ezekiel’s day. After providing extensive evidence of the origin and early history of the Rosh people, and then tracing them through the centuries, Clyde Billington concludes: Historical, ethnological, and archaeological evidence all favor the conclusion that the Rosh people of Ezekiel 38–39 were the ancestors of the Rus/ Ros people of Europe and Asia. . . . Those Rosh people who lived to the north of the Black Sea in ancient and medieval times were called the Rus/ Ros/ Rox/ Aorsi from very early times. . . . The Rosh people of the area north of the Black Sea formed the people known today as the Russians. 220 The great Hebrew scholar Wilhelm Gesenius, who died in 1842, noted that Rosh is “undoubtedly the Russians.” 221 Second, geographically, Ezekiel 38–39 emphasizes repeatedly that at least part of this invading force will come from the “remote parts of the north” (38: 6, 15; 39: 2, NASB). The Bible usually provides directions in reference to Israel, which, on God’s compass, is the center of the earth (Ezekiel 38: 12). If you draw a line directly north from Israel, the land that is most remote or distant to the north is Russia.” (Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview Of Bible Prophecy And The End Of Days, 294-297 (Kindle Edition); Carol Stream, Illinois; Tyndale House Foundation)
It seems likely that “Rosh” is indeed a reference to Russia.
Meshech And Tubal
We are also told in this passage about Meshech and Tubal.
In the Bible, these two peoples are usually listed together.
Ezekiel 27:13-Javan, Tubal, and Meshech were your traders. They bartered human lives and vessels of bronze for your merchandise.
Ezekiel 32:26-“There are Meshech and Tubal and all their multitudes, With all their graves around it, All of them uncircumcised, slain by the sword, Though they caused their terror in the land of the living.
Some have identified these two places as ancient names for Moscow and Tobolsk, two Russian cities, because they sound similar.
However, this is not sufficient evidence to make this connection.
So then, who are they?
Notice that in the earlier reference (Ezekiel 27:13), the city of Tyre was doing business with these two countries.
It ks doubtful they were trading with russia!
So who were they?
Many believe that these cities are the same ones identified in Greek writings as Moschoi and Tibarenoi. The Assyrians referred to them as Tabal and Musku.
They are located in modern day Turkey.
Persia is one of the ancient names for the country of Iran (as is Elam).
These are the same countries as today with those names.
When we study the writings of ancient extra-biblical documents, we see that the descendants of Gomer are associated with the peoples of Germany and France.
“Gomer, the first son of Japheth according to Genesis, founded a people known to the early Greeks as the Cimmerians who dwelt on the shores of the Caspian Sea. From here, they were later driven away by the Elamites. The prophet Ezekiel, during the time of the Captivity, referred to them as those who dwelt in the uppermost parts of the north. They appear in Assyrian records as the Gimirraya whose defeat under king Esarhaddon is duly noted. They appear also in the annals of the reign of Ashurbanipal of Assyria around 660 BC. The people of Ashchenaz are found in earliest times in Armenia, and later Jewish writers associate them with the Germanic races (Germanic Jews to this day are called Ashkenazim). They appear also in the 6th century BC records of Assyria as the Askuza who allied themselves with the Mannai in a revolt against Assyria, an event also mentioned in Jeremiah (51: 27) -whose prophecy incidentally confirms the identity of the Askuza with the Ashkenazim. This people were later known to the Greeks as the Scythai, the Scythians of Herodotus. They gave their name to the lake and harbour of Ascanius and to the land of Ascania.” (Bill Cooper, After The Flood: The Early Post-Flood History Of Europe Traced Back To Noah, 510-518 (Kindle Edition))
We are told in the Book of Genesis about some of the descendants of Gomer:
Genesis 10:3-The sons of Gomer were Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah.
Interestingly enough, Josephus points out that the Greek name for the children of Ashkenaz is Rheginians.
According to ancient Roman maps, these people settled in the modern nations of Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Germany.
Further, the book of Jasher indicates that there were connections between the ancestors of Gomer and the French.
Book Of Jasher 10:8-And the children of Gomer, according to their cities, were the Francum, who dwell in the land of Franza , by the river Franza, by the river Senah.
The river “Senah” mentioned by Jasher is virtually identical to the Seine River where Paris was built.
Josephus-“ For Gomer founded those whom the Greeks now call Galatians, [Galls,] but were then called Gomerites. ”. (Antiquities Of The Jews 1.6.1)
House Of Togarmah
Ken Johnson shows incredible historical evidence that the house of Togarmah included many nations, including China:
“In the chapter on Armenia we learned Togarmah had eight sons. His firstborn founded the Armenian race. This information was preserved in the History of Armenia , by Moses Chorene, and the Georgian Chronicl e s written by Leonti Mroveli in the 11th century AD. The sons of Togarmah became the progenitors of several of the Caucasian peoples . Togarmah is said to have settled among his children in Armenia and Georgia . It is also said he lived for almost 600 years. After the fall of the tower of Babel , when Nimrod lost most of his power in the outer regions, Togarmah partitioned his land among his eight sons. Hayk took what is now Armenia and part of Turkey . Kartlos and his sons settled the regions which today are collectively called the provinces of Georgia . His other sons took the land between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea up to the Caucasus Mountains . Two of Togarmah’s sons, Kovkas and Kekan (founder of the Leks), settled north of the Caucasus Mountains . The Georgian Chronicle s tell us the second born son of Togarmah, Kartlos , founded the Georgian race. Kartlos had five sons: Mc ’ xet ’a, Gardbos , Ka x os , K uxos, and Gajis . Mc ’ xet ’a had three sons: Op’los, Ojrx os , and Jawaxos . These seven sons and grandsons of Kartlos became the founders and first kings of the Mtskheta, Gardabani, Kakheti, Kukheti, Gachiani, Uplistsikhe, Odzrkhe, and Javakheti peoples , respectively. Kartlos united his people and founded the city of Kartli. Today Kartli is the name of the largest province of Eastern Georgia . The Georgian capital, Tbilisi , and the cities Gori and Rustavi are located there. Azerbaijan and Armenia are directly south of it….Part of the house of Togarmah, known as Kipchaks, spread throughout, and intermingled with, the peoples of southern Russia as far as China and as far west as Bulgaria, and the Ukraine. A zerbaijan should be a part of the house of Togarmah ; but they have no record that they are.” (Ken Johnson, Th.D., Ancient Post-Flood History: Historical Evidences That Point To Biblical Creation, 2691-2796 (Kindle Edition)).
The Hesitant Nations
We are also told about some nations that do not actually help Israel.
Furthermore, they seem to simply offer a complaint and an objection against the hateful nations for attacking Israel; yet they do not take any definitive action.
Let’s notice these “hesitant nations.”
Sheba And Dan
Today, these are the scattered peoples of Saudi Arabia.
Tarshish And Her Merchants And Lions
Many people believe that this could be a reference to the United States.
Tarshish itself was a city located in Spain, which was far to the west from Israel.
“The specific nations that question Gogs actions are identified as “Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish.” Sheba and Dedan are not difficult to identify. These are the ancient names for the land we know today as Saudi Arabia. Tarshish, on the other hand, is not so simple to identify. But the majority of scholars believe that Tarshish is ancient Tartessus in the present-day nation of Spain. Both Brown-Driver-Briggs and the Hebrew scholar Gesenius support this view. Tarshish was a wealthy, flourishing colony of the Phoenicians. It exported silver, iron, tin, and lead (see Jeremiah 10: 9; Ezekiel 27: 12, 25)….Where was Tarshish in Ezekiel’s day? It was at the extreme west of the known world, in Spain. When God commanded Jonah to go preach to Nineveh (about five hundred miles northeast of Israel), Jonah headed to Tarshish instead—about as far in the other direction as he could go (see Jonah 1: 1-3). Tarshish is associated in Scripture with the West: “The western kings of Tarshish and the islands will bring him tribute” (Psalm 72: 10, NLT)….The young lions of Tarshish could be a reference to the colonies that emerged from Europe—including the United States. If this is true, then the young lions of Tarshish could be the United States in the last days. If so, she will join with her European and Saudi allies to lodge a formal protest against the Russian-Islamic aggressors.” (Mark Hitchcock, Is America In Bible Prophecy, (395-404 (Kindle Edition); Multinomah Books)
The study of archaeology has shed further light on this issue by demonstrating that Tarshish was part of the ancient Phoenician Empire, which led expeditions to the New World long before the time of Christopher Columbus:
“That ancient Old World Semitic civilizations built a large temple observatory complex in ancient America indicates that they were colonizing, not merely exploring, ancient America. Radiocarbon dating tests showing this facility was in use during the 2nd millennium B.C. confirms that this Semitic colony was present in North America at the time King David was importing prodigious amounts of copper ore for the building of God’s Temple. The presence of a large Semitic settlement in North America during King David’s reign confirms the likelihood that King David’s Israel (with its huge copper smelting facility at Ezion-geber) was the consignee for the many millions of pounds of copper ores which “vanished” from the ancient Lake Superior copper mines. The ships of Tarshish (referred to in Ezekiel 27: 25 and Jonah 1: 3) were also regular callers in the New World, and inscriptions and tablets of their involvement in colonizing ancient America was preserved in Rhode Island, Ohio, and West Virginia. 21…Fell notes that the Tartessian inscriptions in ancient America are a “dialectal variant of Phoenician,” 22 confirming that these early American visitors were also Semites from the Mediterranean area.” (Steven M. Collins, The ‘Lost” Ten Tribes Of Israel…Found!, 1012-1021 (Kindle Edition); Boring, Oregon; CPA Books)
Therefore, some believe that these “hesitant” nations primarily refer to Saudi Arabia, American, Spain, and England.
The Hated Nation
The Bible here tells us about the nation that is so hated is Israel.
However, this poses a bit of a dilemma.
Throughout the Bible, the word “Israel” can have reference to two different “groups.”
I refer to them as Physical Israel (the physical descendants of Abraham) and Spiritual Israel (the spiritual descendants of Abraham).
Romans 9:6-7-6 But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “IN ISAAC YOUR SEED SHALL BE CALLED.”
The Bible talks about two “different” Israels:
1 Corinthians 10:18-Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?
Galatians 6:16-And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.
God had declared in the Old Testament that the people of Israel would be His people IF and only IF they obeyed the Lord’s Word:
Exodus 19:3-6-3 And Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: 4 ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”
One author points out several examples of these “two Israels” as found throughout the Bible:
“According to Paul, there are two Israels. The proof? The Jewish apostle wrote, “They are not all Israel who are of Israel” (Romans 9:6). In this chapter, we will discover that there is an “Israel after the flesh” (1 Corinthians 10:18) and an “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16), composed of both Jews and Gentiles who have personal faith in Jesus Christ, God’s true Messiah. Paul wrote, “Just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham” (Galatians 3:6-7). Paul’s argument is that because Abraham was a man of faith, only those who have faith are his spiritual children. We might call this the concept of “faith lineage.” This truth is like a key that can open a lock in our heads. Once the lock is open we can understand the shocking principle of two Israels. John the Baptist understood and boldly preached “faith lineage.” When a group of tricky Pharisees and Sadducees came to question John’s right to baptize, the wilderness prophet astonished them by shouting, “And do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:9-10). Those Pharisees and Sadducees didn’t have real faith like Abraham did, yet they claimed to be his children. John the Baptist exposed this delusion. “Don’t think that!” he thundered. John then laid the “ax” to the root of the trees by saying that if they didn’t bear “good fruit” through faith in God like Abraham did, they would be “cut down and thrown into the fire” (verse 10). Clearly natural lineage alone is not enough. Without faith and a spiritual connection with the Almighty, those Jews were doomed. Jesus Christ taught the same truth. A certain group of Jewish people once said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus responded, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham” (John 8:39). They also claimed to be Abraham’s children, but they lacked true faith. By saying, “If you were Abraham’s children,” Jesus denied their claim. Christ continued, “But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You do the deeds of your father” (John 8:40-41). “We have one Father—God,” they countered. “Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love Me…You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it’” (John 8:41-42,44). What an atomic text! Jesus was talking to some Jewish people who claimed to be Israelites, the children of Abraham, yet they were only following God outwardly, not in heart. Jesus said they weren’t really Abraham’s children at all because they lacked true faith and were following lies. Their lineage actually went back to satan, the first liar….Jesus Christ also taught “faith lineage” in John chapter 1. A spiritually-minded Jew named Nathanael was wondering whether Jesus of Nazareth was really his Messiah. Retiring to a favorite spot under a fig tree, he prayed about the matter. Soon a friend introduced him to the Savior. When Jesus saw Nathanael, He joyfully declared, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” (John 1:47) Nathanael had a natural lineage that went back to Abraham. Yet he had more. In his spiritual life, he had gained victories over guile, which means deception. When Jesus discerned Nathanael’s spiritual lineage to Abraham and Jacob, He called him “an Israelite indeed.” Just as Jacob himself had become a spiritual Israel, even so had Nathanael become “an Israelite indeed.” He was part of God’s true spiritual Israel. Just as there are two Israels, even so are there two kinds of Jews. There are Jewish people in the flesh and Jewish people in the Spirit. In words of warning to certain Jews who were breaking the Ten Commandments, Paul wrote, “Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God…. For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. Therefore, if an uncircumcised man [a Gentile] keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision?…For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God” (Romans 2:17,25-26,28-29). Did you catch that? Someone who is “called a Jew” because he is a physical descendant of Abraham, and yet who lives as a lawbreaker, is “not a Jew.” His “circumcision has become uncircumcision.” To God, he is a Gentile. And the believing Gentile, who through faith keeps “the righteous requirements of the law,” his uncircumcision is “counted as circumcision.” To God, he is a Jew. Thus John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and Paul all agree—natural lineage is not enough. Whether or not someone is “an Israelite indeed” depends upon one’s faith and spiritual character. Paul summarized, “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3). Anyone today can become one of these “Jews,” no matter who their earthly parents are. These concepts of “faith lineage,” Jews being counted as Gentiles, and visa versa, lead us to one of the biggest issues facing the prophecy-minded Christian world. This issue is at the core of prophetic interpretation. In it, we are faced with two options. One is the truth, the other a lie. One leads to Heaven and the other, possibly, to hell….Paul deals with this explosive issue in Romans 9:2-8. His words require careful thought. Sorrowfully, Paul wrote about his Jewish “countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises” (verses 2-4). God did make promises to Israel in the Old Testament. Yet what if some Jews do not have true faith in Him? Can God fulfill His promises to an unbelieving Israel after the flesh? If not, has His Word failed? Paul’s answer to these important questions is vital: “Not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel” (verse 6). Notice that the truth of two Israels is Paul’s assurance that God’s Word will not fail. Look carefully: “They are not all Israel [the Israel of God] who are of Israel [of the Jewish nation].” Thus a Jew can be of the Jewish nation, and yet not be part of the Israel of God. Now here’s the explosive question: To which Israel will God fulfill His promises? Paul continues, “Nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called’” (verse 7). Since not all physical descendants of Abraham are automatically God’s true children, therefore His promises are for those “in Isaac.” Abraham had two sons. The first was Ishmael, who was born after the flesh. The second was Isaac, who was born when Abraham had faith in God’s promise (see Genesis 16:1-3,15; 21:1-3; Romans 4:18-21). In Galatians 4:22-31, Paul shockingly reveals that Ishmael represents unbelieving Jews, while Isaac represents Jews and Gentiles who have faith in Christ! “Now we, brethren [as believers in Christ], as Isaac was, are children of promise” (Galatians 4:28). The “children of promise” are those who “receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14). Therefore, the Israel that is “in Isaac” is the Israel of God in the Holy Spirit. Paul concludes, “That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed” (Romans 9:8, emphasis added). “Counted as the seed” means that, although some may be Gentiles, they’re in. Here is an eight-point summary of Paul’s rather detailed reasoning: God made promises to Abraham and his seed (Galatians 3:16). Abraham’s seed would continue “in Isaac” (Romans 9:7). Isaac was born when Abraham had faith in God’s promise (Romans 4:19-21). Isaac represents everyone who believes in Jesus and who receives the promise of the Holy Spirit by faith (Galatians 3:14; 4:22-28) All who have faith in Jesus Christ—Jews or Gentiles—“are counted as the seed” (Galatians 3:14; Romans 9:8; 10:12). This seed is “the Israel of God” in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16,29; 6:14-16). God will fulfill His promises to this Israel (Galatians 3:29; 4:28; 6:14-16). Thus God’s promises to Israel have not been made of “no effect,” even though some Jewish people don’t believe in their own Messiah (Romans 9:6-8). Here we have the answer to the issue that means so much in prophetic interpretation. The Bible is clear. God will fulfill His Old Testament promises to those “in Isaac,” that is, to any human being who follows Abraham’s example and who becomes part of His Israel in the Spirit through faith in the Messiah. Thus the issue is not race, bloodline, genealogy, or ethnicity, but personal faith—a faith available to all (see Romans 10:12). Those who are only “the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed” (Romans 9:8). We should not expect God to fulfill His promises to unbelieving Israelites of the flesh (or to lips-only Christians of the flesh for that matter), unless, of course, they individually become true believers in the Messiah….In the next three verses, Paul refers to Israel’s apostasy in the days of Elijah. God told His prophet, “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal” (verse 4). In Elijah’s time there were also two Israels. One followed Baal, the other followed God. Then Paul made this pointed application. “Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace” (verse 5). Just as in Elijah’s time there was a faithful remnant of Israel, even so in Paul’s time there was also a faithful remnant of believing Jews, who, like himself, had been saved by grace. Based on the context of Romans 11:1-5, it is this faithful remnant of Israel, made up of Jews like Paul, which God has certainly not “cast away.” Soon we will see this exact issue in the Book of Revelation. As in the days of Elijah, we are now in the midst of a terrible apostasy. Yet today God has His “seven thousand” who have not “bowed the knee to Baal.” They are His faithful remnant, His Israel in the Holy Spirit, who rely on God’s power instead of their flesh. Like Elijah, they will be on the side of Jesus Christ and His truth at Armageddon.” (Steve Wohlberg, End-Time Delusions: The Rapture, The Antichrist, Israel, And The End Of The World, 153-157 (Kindle Edition); Shippensburg, PA; Treasure House)
Since the word “Israel” can have reference to either the physical or the spiritual descendants of Abraham, which are we talking about here in Ezekiel 38-39?
In other words, is the “Israel” in this passage talking about the Jewish people, or about the church of Christ?
First, the text tells us that the “Israel” in this passage were in subjection to the Messiah (Ezekiel 34:11-31; 37:24).
Second, this “Israel” had the Holy Spirit of God (Ezekiel 36:27).
Third, this “Israel” had repented of sin and been forgiven by the Lord (Ezekiel 36:32-33; 37:23).
Fourth, this “Israel” lived under the New Testament (Ezekiel 16:60-62; 20:37; 34:25; 37:26).
Fifth, this “Israel” would be in existence during the Christian Age or the “latter years” and “latter days” (Ezekiel 38:8, 16).
The “Israel after the flesh” that God brought back from Babylonian captivity (Ezekiel 37) was given the opportunity to become the true “Israel of God” based upon whether or not they accepted Jesus Christ.
The “Israel” in these chapters has reference to those Hebrews who became the people of God when they were forgiven and saved and added to God’s church:
Romans 2:28-29-28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
Galatians 3:7-Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.
Galatians 3:26-29-26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
In our next article, we will try and put all of these facts together.
We will see what these chapters in Ezekiel teach us about God, His people, and their enemies.
For now, in conclusion, notice three things with me.
First, when we carefully analyze this list of nations, something remarkable stands out: all of the nations (both the hateful nations and the hesitant nations) surround “Israel.”
In other words, the people of God are here completely surrounded by enemies.
Second, to be part of “Israel” today, we must be added by God to His church when we surrender to the Lord according to His plan of redemption.
Finally, we see here the promise that God would bring forth the Good Shepherd Who would come and heal the people:
Ezekiel 34:11-12-11 ‘For thus says the Lord GOD: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day.
The Good Shepherd (Jesus-John 1-:1-30) did come, to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). He came and died for the sins of mankind on the cross of Calvary, was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).
He invites all believers everywhere to come to Him and be saved (Matthew 11:28-30).
Believers are told:
Acts 2:38-Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Christians who sin are exhorted to come back to the Lord:
1 John 1:9-If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.