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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 14–23
Verses 14–23

This latter part of the chapter is a repetition of the former; the dream is doubled, for the thing is certain and to be very carefully regarded.

I. It is here again foretold that this spiteful enemy should make a formidable descent upon the land of Israel (Ezek. 38:15): “Thou shalt come out of the north parts (Syria lay on the north of Canaan) with a mighty army, shalt come like a cloud, and cover the land of my people Israel,” Ezek. 38:16. These words (Ezek. 38:14), When my people Israel dwell safely, shalt thou not know it? may be taken two ways:—1. As intimating his inducements to this attempt. “Thou shalt have intelligence brought thee how securely, and therefore how carelessly, the people of Israel dwell, which shall give rise to thy project against them; for when thou knowest not only what a rich, but what an easy prey they are likely to be, thou wilt soon determine to fall upon them” Note, God’s providence is to be acknowledged in the occasion, the small occasion perhaps, that is given, and that not designedly neither, to those first thoughts from which great enterprises take their original. God, to bring about his own purposes, lets men know that which yet he knows they will make a bad use of, as here. Or, 2. As intimating his disappointment in this attempt, which here, as before, the prophecy begins with: “When my people Israel dwell safely, not in their own apprehension only, but in reality, forasmuch as they dwell safely under the divine protection, shalt not thou be made to know it by the fruitlessness of thy endeavours to destroy them?” Thou shalt soon find that there is no enchantment against Jacob, that no weapon formed against them shall prosper; thou shalt know to thy cost, shalt know to thy shame, that though they have no walls, nor bars, nor gates, they have God himself, a wall of fire, round about them, and that he who touches them touches the apple of his eye; whosoever meddles with them meddles to his own hurt. And it is for the demonstrating of this to all the world that God will bring this mighty enemy against his people. Those that gathered themselves against Israel said, Let us take the spoil and take they prey, but they knew not the thoughts of the Lord, Mic. 4:11, 12. I will bring thee against my land. This is strange news, that God will not only permit his enemies to come against his own children, but will himself bring them; but, if we understand what he aims at, we shall be well reconciled even to this: it is “that the heathen may know me to be the only living and true God when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog! that is, in thy defeat and destruction before their eyes, that all the nations may see, and say, There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, that rides on the heavens for the help of his people.” Note, God brings his people into danger and distress that he may have the honour of bringing about their deliverance, and suffers the enemies of his church to prevail awhile, though they profane his name by their sin, that he may have the honour of prevailing at last and sanctifying his own name in their ruin. Now it is said, This shall be in the latter days, namely, in the latter days of the Old-Testament church; so the mischief that Antiochus did to Israel was; but in the latter days of the New-Testament church another like enemy should arise, that should in like manner be defeated. Note, Effectual securities are treasured up in the word of God against the troubles and dangers the church may be brought into a great while hence, even in the latter days.

II. Reference is herein had to the predictions of the former prophets (Ezek. 38:17): Art thou he of whom I have spoken in old time, of whom Moses spoke in his prophecy of the latter days (Deut. 32:43; He will render vengeance to his adversaries), and David, Ps. 9:15 (The heathen are sunk down into the pit that they made) and often elsewhere in the Psalms? This is the leviathan of whom Isaiah spoke (Isa. 27:1), that congress of the nations of which Joel spoke, Joel 3:1. Many of the prophets had perhaps spoken particularly of this event, though it be not written, as they all had spoken and written too that which is applicable to it. Note, There is an amiable admirable harmony and agreement between the Lord’s prophets, though they lived in several ages, for they were all guided by one and the same Spirit.

III. It is here foretold that this furious formidable enemy should be utterly cut off in this attempt upon Israel, and that it should issue in his own ruin. This is supposed by many to have its accomplishment in the many defeats given by the Maccabees to the forces of Antiochus and the remarkable judgments of God executed upon his own person, for he died of sore diseases. But these things are here foretold, as usual, in figurative expressions, which we are not to look for the literal accomplishment of, and yet they might be fulfilled nearer the letter than we know of. 1. God will be highly displeased with this bold invader: When he comes up in pride and anger against the land of Israel, and thinks to carry all before him with a high hand, then God’s fury shall come up in his face, which is an allusion to the manner of men, whose colour rises in their faces when some high affront is offered them and they are resolved to show their resentment of it, Ezek. 38:18. God will speak against them in his jealousy for his people and in the fire of his wrath against his and their enemies, Ezek. 38:19. See how God’s permitting sin, his laying occasions of sin before men, and his making use of it to serve his own purposes, consist with his hatred of sin and his displeasure against it. God brings this enemy against his land, letting him know what an easy prey it might be and determining thereby to glorify himself; and yet, when he comes against the land, God’s fury comes up, and he speaks to him in the fire of his wrath. If any ask, Why does he thus find fault? for who has resisted his will? It is easy to answer, Nay, but, O man! who art thou that repliest against God? 2. His forces shall be put into the greatest confusion and consternation imaginable (Ezek. 38:19): There shall be a great shaking of them in the land of Israel, a universal concussion (Ezek. 38:20), such as shall affect the fishes and fowls, the beasts and creeping things, and much more the men that are upon the face of the earth, who sooner receive impressions of fear. There shall be such an earthquake as shall throw down the mountains, those natural heights, and the steep places, towers and walls, those artificial heights; they shall all fall to the ground. Some understand this of the fright which the land of Israel should be put into by the fury of the enemy. But it is rather to be understood of the fright which the enemy should be put into by the wrath of God; all those things which they both raise themselves and stay themselves upon shall be shaken down, and their hearts shall fail them. 3. He shall be routed and utterly ruined; both earth and heaven shall be armed against him (1.) The earth shall muster up its forces to destroy him. If the people of Israel have not strength and courage to resist him, God will call for a sword against him, Ezek. 38:21. And he has swords always at command, that are bathed in heaven, Isa. 35:5. Throughout all the mountains of Israel, where he hoped to meet with spoil to enrich him, he shall meet with swords to destroy him, and, rather than fail, every man’s sword shall be against his brother, as in the day of Midian, Ps. 83:9. The great men of Syria shall undermine and overthrow one another, shall accuse one another, shall fight duels with one another. Note, God can, and often does, make the destroyers of his people to be their own destroyers and the destroyers of one another. However, he will himself be their destroyer, will take the work into his own hand, that it may be done thoroughly (Ezek. 38:22): I will plead against him with pestilence and blood. Note, Whom God acts against he pleads against; he shows them the ground of his controversy with them, that their mouths may be stopped, and he may be clear when he judges. (2.) The artillery of heaven shall also be drawn out against them: I will rain upon him an overflowing rain, Ezek. 38:22. He comes like a storm upon Israel, Ezek. 38:9. But God will come like a storm upon him, will rain upon him great hailstones as upon the Canaanites (Josh. 10:11), fire and brimstone as upon Sodom, and a horrible tempest, Ps. 11:6. Thus the Gog and Magog in the New Testament shall be devoured with fire from heaven, and cast into the lake of brimstone, Rev. 20:9, 10. That will be the everlasting portion of all the impenitent implacable enemies of God’s church and people. 4. God, in all this, will be glorified. The end he aimed at (Ezek. 38:16) shall be accomplished (Ezek. 38:23): Thus will I magnify myself and sanctify myself. Note, In the destruction of sinners God makes it to appear that he is a great and holy God, and he will do so to eternity. And, if men do not magnify and sanctify him as they ought, he will magnify himself, and sanctify himself; and this we should desire and pray for daily, Father, glorify thy own name.