Listening to Glenn Beck requires a good grasp of history, religion (especially the Bible), and general worldview thinking to filter out the misinformation, especially when it comes to Bible prophecy. Too often Beck relies on misinformed “experts” whom he trusts without investigating their claims or at least seeking out another opinion. But since it’s about the most sensational stories — a story only leads if it bleeds — an alternative view might dampen audience enthusiasm.
Beck likes to talk about how all the signs are about us that the end of the world is near and Jesus has to be coming back soon. At the same time he says things like this, he goes to Washington to call on people to work to change America before we lose this once great nation. It’s schizophrenic.
On his June 18th radio program, the second hour, he brought up the Ezekiel 38-39 “Gog and Magog” prophecy.
Beck has formulated his views on the Ezekiel prophecy based on Joel Rosenberg’s 2006 book Epicenter and interviews he’s had with him. On August 31, 2006, I debated Rosenberg on Mickelson in the Morning hosted by Jan Mickelson. He won’t debate now because he knows his position will not stand up against scrutiny.
The claim is made that the Ezekiel prophecy is about Russia and Iran and other current Middle East players. There is no mention of either Russia or Iran in Ezekiel 38 and 39. Finding Russia is based in part on the use of the Hebrew word rosh (ראש). Rosh does not refer to Russia. Rosh means “head,” as in Rosh Hashanah, the head of the Jewish New year, that is, the first day.
The reading of the text should be “the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal” (38:2; 39:1) instead of “prince of Rosh.” Charles Ryrie, author of the Ryrie Study Bible, acknowledges that rosh is not a proper name: “The prince of Rosh is better translated as ‘the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.’”
Daniel I. Block translates Ezekiel 38:3, “[Son of Man], set your face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince, chief of Meshech and Tubal.”1 Here is Block’s explanation: “[Rosh] is therefore best understood as a common noun, appositional to and offering a closer definition of [the Hebrew word] nasi [translated as ‘prince’]. Accordingly, the prince, chief of Meshech and Tubal, combines Ezekiel’s preferred title for kings with a hierarchical designation, the addition serving to clarify the preceding archaic term.”2
Then there’s the problem with the weapons. They are ancient weapons: bows and arrows, spears, clubs, shields (Ezek. 39:9) and chariots (39:20). The claim is often made that God was revealing modern-day weaponry in terms that Ezekiel and the people of his day could understand. But if the prophecy wasn’t for them, then why not depict the future prophecy in a truly prophetic way? The way the so-called literalists interpret the prophecy, everybody is confused.
Notice what these invading northern hordes are after: silver, gold, cattle, and goods (38:12–13). What did the returning exiles from Babylon bring back to Israel?: silver, gold, goods, and cattle (Ezra 1:4). Modern-day Israel doesn’t have enough silver, gold, or cattle that Russia would risk a war over.
Notice that the prophecy describes a time when there were “unwalled villages” (Ezekl. 38:11). Today, Israel is a nation of walls. In the book of Esther, we see that there were Jews who were living in relative peace in “unwalled towns” (9:19, KJV) when Haman conspired against them. The Hebrew word perazah is used in Esther 9:19 and Ezekiel 38:11.3
There’s much more that could be said about this topic. It’s quite obvious that Ezekiel is describing a future battle that was in Israel’s near future about 2500 years ago. The most likely fulfillment is found in the events surrounding the book of Esther where Haman (Hamon-Gog: Ezek. 39:11, 15)4 wanted to “destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus” (Esther 3:6) but failed in the attempt.
For a thorough study of this topic, see my book Why the End of the World is Not in Your Future: Identifying the Gog-Magog Alliance.
- Daniel I. Block, The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 25–48 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998), 432. [↩]
- Block, Ezekiel, 2:435. [↩]
- It’s unfortunate that the translators of the New American Standard Version translate perazah as “rural towns” in Esther 9:19 instead of “unwalled villages” as they do in Ezekiel 38:11. [↩]
- “One late manuscript to Esther 3:1 and 9:24 refers to Haman as a ‘Gogite.’” (Sverre Bøe, Gog and Magog: Ezekiel 38–39 As Pre-Text for Revelation 19, 17–21 and 20, 7–10 (Wissunt Zum Neun Testament Ser. II, 135) (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2001), 384.). [↩]
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