An Historical Viewpoint
The interpretation which many placed on the above verses is incidentally revealed through the pen of Frank Jannaway. He visited the Land and penned his thoughts in 1912.In a letter to the Editor of the Christadelphian Magazine he says:-
‘…of late Jewish colonies have greatly multiplied in the suburbs of Jerusalem, particularly in the North thereof. Each one of these little colonies is an evidence that when Ezekiel penned his prophecies and in particular verses 8,11,12,13 and 14 of chapter 38 he made no false claim in saying,” Thus saith the Lord,” for here we are walking about the “unwalled villages,” talking with “the people brought forth out of the nations,” “that dwell safely”, although “without walls and having neither bars nor gates.”’
The 14th verse of chapter 38 addressed to Gog clearly indicates the expectation of the writer for the future as being a major attack at a time of peace akin to the situation experienced in 1912.
“In that day when my people of Israel dwelleth safely, shalt thou not know it?”
In the intervening years many have sought to categorise the condition in the land of Israel as they saw it, as being that of dwelling safely and of expecting the Gogian attack at any time. This had always been a difficult approach in view of the fact that the land has increasingly seen fighting, walls, bars and gates and latterly capped by the erection of the ‘Separation barrier’ in 2002.
A closer examination of the words used in Ezekiel 38:12, namely ‘safely’ and ‘at rest’ reveals the original Hebrew words used as ‘betach’ and ‘shaquat’. These two Hebrew words occur some 80 times in the Hebrew Bible and they indicate in virtually all places, a condition of actual peace and security. Gesenius summarises the meaning as “harasses no-one and no-one harassing”.
In recent times, given tunnels, rockets and personal knife attacks, it could be argued that such a condition of real peace, even for the short term, has hardly existed for the people.
Significantly, on the day after the recent Blood Moon, the first raid of Russian bombers was in operation over Syria. This fact is well known but less appreciated is that around this time Mr Putin had made an offer which Mr Netanyahu was considering. It was that a Russian investment was available to Israel to help construct the means of extraction of gas from the Leviathan gas field, together with a pipeline to take the gas to Turkey. This offer was not taken up at that stage by Israel. What has materialised since is a hotline communication between Moscow and Jerusalem! Mr Putin further proposed that in the event of a supply deal being agreed, troubles with Hamas and Hezbollah would be minimised, since if they threatened the new gas supply to Russia, such threats would be put down by Russia. In the stark words of Mr Putin “no-one messes with us!”
Looking at the chapter from a prophetic standpoint, if such a deal were to be entered into, Israel would benefit in two significant ways. First, the capital investment set up for the extraction would yield a continuing flow of income from the gas sale; and second, the present threats and uncertainties in Israel, if negated by the Russian presence, would indeed allow the development of the peaceful scene as envisaged by the prophet – no need of walls and gates.
Are there any other scriptures which give us any further guidance on this situation? It is proposed that Isa 10:20,21 is relevant,
“And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them: but shall stay upon the LORD, the Holy One of Israel in truth”. “The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God”.
These verses are clearly applicable to a time when Israel would have been under severe attack. The remnant will have survived and escaped as a result of Israel ‘staying’ (depending) upon another nation. This nation then turned about and smote Israel. In the context of these verses, if Israel were to make an agreement with Russia for a period of time and then at the appropriate stage Russia were to go back on her agreement and come with armed forces, then this situation, it is argued, would be well described by these verses.
The reaction of Tarshish in the enquiry “art thou come to take a spoil, to take a prey” could be reflecting their uncertainty about this sudden Russian move as they had thought that an ongoing satisfactory arrangement was in operation between Russia and Israel.
Are we able to extract any further information regarding the possible timescale for the development of these events? If account is taken of any timescale which may be associated with the events of Eze.38, and assuming that oil supplies are seen to influence the actions of the various powers, it is appropriate to put this question in a wider context.
The price of oil on the world markets is maintaining about $50 a barrel, approximately half of its previous value. Why is this price so low? There are many reasons for this, including weak demand, major recessions in various parts of the world, notably China, the increasing use of wind and solar energies and the general impact of technology. In addition to these factors there has been an increase in supply, for example through “fracking,” particularly in the USA and other oil fields coming on line. Many of these trends are likely to continue and although it is impossible to predict just how the supply/demand balance will work out, many commentators agree that the demand for oil in the medium to long term is liable to decrease quite significantly. As this trend develops, Mr Putin’s plans to hold the world to ransom through the ‘oil weapon’ will become increasingly problematical the longer he waits. From this standpoint therefore, one might well conclude that the developments we might look for according to prophecy, are realistically more likely to take place in the short to medium term when there still exists a strong demand for fossil fuels, rather than in the long term.
Lessons for Us
In all of these discussions we must remember that it is at least possible that the eager watchers of these things will be taken away to judgement before many of these further stages in the Middle East take place. In discussing the events of Eze 38 John Thomas says the following:
“The return of security and prosperity to this tenth of the land must either precede the development of the one Yahweh man, or be concurrent with the operation in the recesses of Teman, (the Judgement) or it may be in progress both then and before.” Eureka Vol 3 page 596 (1869)
The one thing which is obvious is that Gog has to see Israel in a real peace, with abundant spoil, before he makes his major attack. On this basis the taking away to the Judgement could take place before these great happenings or when they have been well developed or even part way through. The lesson is clear – watch and be ready!