After the fall of Jerusalem, Ezekiel no longer spoke of God’s judgments on his contemporaries but of Israel’s redemption in the latter days. It was as though he had done all he could to stave off the destruction of his people, and when that was impossible and they were actually experiencing the suffering that captivity had imposed upon them, he turned their hearts to the future and the source of their ultimate hope in the Lord.
So Saints of the latter days should be most enthusiastic about Ezekiel’s prophecies in chapters 25–48. Of Ezekiel’s twelve, precisely recorded visions, seven were given after the fall of Jerusalem and dealt with such events of the last days as the building of the great Jewish kingdom under a shepherd named David, the gathering of scattered Israel, the unification of all the tribes of Israel, the joining of the Bible and the Book of Mormon, the battle of Armageddon, and the building of a modern temple in Jerusalem. Truly, Ezekiel was a prophet of the Restoration.
Notes and Commentary on Ezekiel 25–48
(27-2) Ezekiel 25–32. Ezekiel Prophesied against Foreign Nations
These eight chapters contain prophecies against several foreign nations: Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, Sidon, and Egypt.
“Although the prophets concentrated mainly on Israel/Judah, all of them were very conscious that God was Lord of the whole world. There is no nation beyond the reach of his judgement; and what he condemns and punishes in his own people, he condemns and punishes in other nations too. This collection of prophecies effectively marks the break in Ezekiel’s ministry before, and his ministry after, the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.” (David Alexander and Pat Alexander, eds., Eerdmans’ Handbook to the Bible, p. 423.)
(27-3) Ezekiel 25:3. What Is the Significance of the Interjection “Aha”?
Aha was used as an expression of malicious joy. Because the Ammonites rejoiced when Judah fell and the temple was profaned, the Lord was displeased and promised to punish them. (See Robert Young, Analytical Concordance to the Bible, s.v. “aha”; Ezekiel 26:2; 36:2.)
(27-4) Ezekiel 25:8. What Is Seir?
Seir is the original name of the mountain ridge extending along the east side of the valley of Arabah, from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. This area was the dwelling place of the Edomites, the descendants of Esau. Seir in the Bible became synonymous with Edom. Compare this prophecy about Edom in Ezekiel 25:8–11with those in Isaiah 16:1–5(where Sela, which in Hebrew means “the rock,” is assumed to be Mount Seir) and in Jeremiah 49:7–22.
(27-5) Ezekiel 25:16. Who Were the Cherethims?
The word cherethims would better be translated “Cretans,” a branch of the sea peoples of whom the Philistines were a part. The Cretans dwelt in southwest Canaan. (See C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, 9:1:369.)
(27-6) Ezekiel 26:1–14. A Remarkable Fulfillment of Prophecy
Korihor, the Book of Mormon anti-Christ, told Alma that “no man can know of anything which is to come” because “ye cannot know of things which ye do not see” (Alma 30:13, 15). Again and again in the Old Testament, one can find examples that prove Korihor wrong. The prophets foretold in great detail many future events. Ezekiel’s prophecies concerning Tyre (Tyrus) are some of the most remarkable.
Tyre was situated on the coast about halfway between Carmel in Israel and Beirut in Lebanon.
But it was a peculiar geographic feature of Tyre that gave it its most remarkable prophetic destiny. Merrill F. Unger noted that Tyre “once consisted of two parts—a rocky coast defense of great strength on the mainland, and a city upon a small but well-protected island, about half a mile from the shore” (Unger’s Bible Dictionary, s.v. “Tyre,” p. 1121).
Ezekiel predicted that Nebuchadnezzar would lay siege to Tyre (see Ezekiel 26:7–11), but a skeptic like Korihor might say that this prediction was not remarkable since Nebuchadnezzar was conquering nearly every major city in the area, and Tyre was a particularly ripe plum because of its wealth. But “before a generation had passed away, according to Josephus, Philostratus, and Seder Olam, Nebuchadnezzar came up, as had been predicted [Ezekiel 26:7–15], making a fort, casting a mount, and lifting up the buckler. At the end of thirteen years [about 605 B.C.] he took the city, at least that on the mainland, and Tyre was forgotten seventy years, as had been foretold by Isaiah [23:15].” (Samuel Fallows, ed., The Popular and Critical Bible Encyclopedia and Scriptural Dictionary, s.v. “Tyre,” p. 1682.)
Some of Ezekiel’s peculiar promises seemed to be unfulfilled, including the following:
“I will also scrape her dust from her” (Ezekiel 26:4).
Tyre will become “like the top of a rock” (Ezekiel 26:4).
“It shall be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea” (Ezekiel 26:5).
“They shall lay thy stones and thy timber and thy dust in the midst of the water” (Ezekiel 26:12).
“Thou shalt be built no more” (Ezekiel 26:14).
For nearly three hundred years these prophecies appeared to be inaccurate. Nebuchadnezzar conquered the mainland city but was unable to subdue all of Tyre because of its strategic position on the island. After a few decades Tyre regained her wealth and splendor, though the ruined city on the shore was not rebuilt, and the island fortification became the central city.
Then in 332 B.C., Alexander the Great swept out of the northern Mediterranean world. He moved south with his forces and camped on the ruins of ancient Tyre, isolating the inhabitants on the island offshore. Tyre had supposedly made a peaceful alliance with the Greeks, but when Alexander requested permission to bring his troops into Tyre to worship their gods and was refused, he laid siege to Tyre—a difficult task since the city lay on an island a half mile off the shore.
James Hastings described what followed: “The memorable siege began. Alexander built a mole [causeway] 200 ft. wide out towards the island. It was repeatedly destroyed. The defense was desperate and successful, till Alexander invested the city with a fleet of 224 ships. Tyre was stormed, 8000 of her inhabitants massacred, 2000 crucified on the shore, and 30,000 sold into slavery. Tyre ceased to be an island, and henceforth was permanently joined to the mainland. Only a blunt headland to-day suggests the existence of the former island fortress. The mole is now ½ mile broad.” (A Dictionary of the Bible, s.v. “Tyre.”)
Fallows noted how Ezekiel’s prophecy that Tyre would be scraped clean and made like the top of a rock was fulfilled: “So utterly were the ruins of old Tyre thrown into the sea, that its exact site is confessedly undeterminable, although the ruins of nearly fifty cities near Rome, which perished almost 2,500 years ago, testify that the extinction of every trace of a city is a sort of miracle.” (Bible Encyclopedia, s.v. “Tyre,” p. 1682.)
Today there is no island opposite Tyre, but a close examination of the coastline in that vicinity will show a small peninsula jutting into the sea. Because of its configuration and the prevailing breezes, local fishermen come to the barren, rocky outcrop to spread their nets to dry.
The prophet Ezekiel certainly met the criteria outlined in Deuteronomy 18:18–22for determining whether a prophet speaks for the Lord.
(27-7) Ezekiel 27:5, 10, 13–14, 16. Geographical Locations
(27-8) Ezekiel 28:20–23. “Set Thy Face against Zidon”
Zidon, or Sidon, a sister city with Tyre, also had been a thorn in Israel’s side. If the Israelites had followed Moses’ instructions to destroy all the Canaanites (see Deuteronomy 7:1–5; Judges 1:31), Tyre and Sidon would have been Israelite cities for nearly eight centuries by Ezekiel’s time and their history significantly different.
(27-9) Ezekiel 29:1–16. Egypt Will Learn Who Is God
Alexander and Alexander wrote: “By his insufferable pride in placing himself among the gods, Pharaoh has exposed his whole land to God’s anger. But he will learn who is God!” (Eerdmans’ Handbook, p. 425.)
Syene (see Ezekiel 29:10) was a city in the south of Egypt, far up the Nile. Pathros (see v. 14) was the name for upper Egypt, or the south part of Egypt. Once the seat of leadership for Egypt was driven up to Pathros, Egypt became “the basest of the kingdoms” and never did “exalt itself any more above the nations” (v. 15). From that point on, Egypt ceased to play an important role in world affairs.
(27-10) Ezekiel 29:18–20. Nebuchadnezzar Lost Tyre
Nebuchadnezzar had not been able to conquer the island city (see Notes and Commentary on Ezekiel 26:1–14). When the long siege of Tyre was ended, many of the Tyrians loaded their wealth on their ships and escaped to Carthage. Thus Nebuchadnezzar lost some of the spoil of one of the world’s richest cities (see Adam Clarke, The Holy Bible … with a Commentary and Critical Notes, 4:503).
(27-11) Ezekiel 30:13–17. Locations of the Lord’s Judgments upon Egypt
Noph. The city of Memphis in lower Egypt.
Zoan. The city of Rameses in lower Egypt in the Nile River delta.
No. The city of Thebes in upper Egypt.
Aven. The sacred city of Heliopolis, or On, in lower Egypt.
Pi-beseth. A town of lower Egypt, the same as Bubastis, about forty miles from Memphis.
(27-12) Ezekiel 32. The Fearful Fall of Egypt
Ezekiel 32is written in poetic and figurative style and relates to Egypt’s pending downfall and the decimation of her people, especially the leaders—the “bright lights” (v. ). In verse 22 the Lord says Ashur (Assyria) is already in hell, which was where Egypt was headed. The reference to the “nether parts of the earth” in verses 18 and 24 is typical of the ancient belief that hell is below the earth. Pharaoh was to join the kings of Tyre, Sidon, Damascus, Assyria, Persia, Idumea, and so forth, in hell, with their armies, and be comforted to know that they share a common fate (see v. 31; Clarke, Commentary, 4:510).
(27-13) Ezekiel 33:2–9. “I Have Set Thee a Watchman unto the House of Israel”
“I am sure that Peter and James and Paul found it unpleasant business to constantly be calling people to repentance and warning them of dangers, but they continued unflinchingly. So we, your leaders, must be everlastingly at it; if young people do not understand, then the fault may be partly ours. But, if we make the true way clear to you, then we are blameless [Ezekiel 33:3–6].
“So, I wish today to help define meanings of words and acts for you young people, to fortify you against error, anguish, pain and sorrow.” (Love versus Lust, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [5 Jan. 1965], pp. 6–7.)
(27-14) Ezekiel 33:12–19. Repenting of Sin
Ezekiel 33:12–19says that one’s righteous deeds will not cancel out one’s works of iniquity. If a sinner “turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right” (v. 14), however, his sins will not be mentioned on his account (v. 16).
Repentance is not to be procrastinated (see Alma 34:32–34), nor is it to be “trifled with every day,” said Joseph Smith. “Daily transgression and daily repentance [incomplete or insincere] is not that which is pleasing in the sight of God.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 148.) But the Prophet also said, “There is never a time when the spirit is too old to approach God. All are within the reach of pardoning mercy, who have not committed the unpardonable sin.” (Teachings, p. 191.)
Elder Spencer W. Kimball further commented on the need to provide restitution for sin, as noted in Ezekiel 33:15:
“When one is humble in sorrow, has unconditionally abandoned the evil, confessed to those assigned by the Lord, he should next restore insofar as possible that which was damaged. If he burglarized, he should return to the rightful owner that which was stolen. Perhaps one reason murder is unforgivable is that having taken a life, the murderer cannot restore it. Restitution in full is not possible. …
“However, the truly repentant soul will usually find things which can be done to restore to some extent. The true spirit of repentance demands this. Ezekiel taught: [Ezekiel 33:15]. …
“A pleading sinner must also forgive all people of all offenses committed against himself. The Lord is under no obligation to forgive us unless our hearts are fully purged of all hate, bitterness and accusations against all others.” (Be Ye Clean, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year, 4 May 1954, p. 11.)
(27-15) Ezekiel 33:21–33. Ezekiel Heard of the Destruction of Jerusalem
“The news did not take Ezekiel by surprise. God had already given him back his speech, as promised [Ezekiel 24:27], by the time the messenger arrived. Some texts have ‘eleventh year’ for ‘twelfth’ in verse 21, in which case the news takes the more likely time of six months to reach them. Those left behind in Judah, far from repenting, were busy annexing other people’s property. And in Babylonia the exiles who seemed to lap up Ezekiel’s words came simply for entertainment. They neither believed them nor acted on them: a depressing state of affairs after all that had happened!” (Alexander and Alexander, Eerdmans’ Handbook, p. 426.)
It was unfortunate that the Jews in Babylonia did not appreciate at that time “that a prophet hath been among them” (Ezekiel 33:33).
(27-16) Ezekiel 34:1–10. “Should Not the Shepherds Feed the Flocks?”
In a tone very similar to Jeremiah’s (see Jeremiah 23:1–8), Ezekiel condemned the pastors, or shepherds, of the Lord’s spiritual flock, the religious leaders of Ezekiel’s day.
In contrast to the Lord’s care of His flock, the shepherds of Israel fed themselves but not the flock. The negligent shepherds did not strengthen the sick, bind up the broken, bring back again those who were driven away, or seek for the lost sheep—all of which any real shepherd would do for his own sheep. Instead, they ruled the sheep with force and cruelty and let them wander to become a prey to beasts.
President Spencer W. Kimball, in a priesthood session of general conference, charged the present shepherds—priesthood leaders—of the kingdom to be concerned about the welfare of the flock:
“As we read and study the scriptures, we are made conscious of the fact that the Savior has always been concerned about the welfare of the members of his flock, both individually and collectively. It is about that principle of caring for and ministering to the needs of the Church membership in these troubled days that I desire to speak to you brethren tonight.
“Bishops and branch presidents, please be ever alert to the needs of the precious individuals and families who make up the membership of your wards and branches. You are the nurturing shepherds of our people. To the greatest extent possible, let your counselors and others who serve and work under your direction be the managers of programs. If you will pursue this emphasis, you will often be able to detect very early some of those members who have serious difficulties, while their challenges and problems are still small and manageable. Be conscious of the little tensions and problems you may see in families so that you can give the required attention, counsel, and love when it is most needed. An hour with a troubled boy or girl now may save him or her, and is infinitely better than the hundreds of hours spent in their later lives in the reclamation of a boy or girl if they become inactive.
“As we have said so many times, delegate those tasks which others can do so that you are free to do those things which you, and you alone, can do. Home teachers are to help watch over the flock. Even though they don’t counsel as bishops and branch presidents do, home teachers can render much appropriate and preventive help under the direction of the quorum leaders and bishoprics.
“Stake presidents, bishops, and branch presidents, please take a particular interest in improving the quality of teaching in the Church. The Savior has told us to feed his sheep (see John 21:15–17). I fear that all too often many of our members come to church, sit through a class or meeting, and they then return home having been largely uninformed. It is especially unfortunate when this happens at a time when they may be entering a period of stress, temptation, or crisis. We all need to be touched and nurtured by the Spirit, and effective teaching is one of the most important ways this can happen. We often do vigorous enlistment work to get members to come to church but then do not adequately watch over what they receive when they do come.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1980, p. 67; see also
(27-18) Ezekiel 35. Edom to Be Destroyed
Why would the Lord deal so harshly with the people of Edom, the descendants of Esau and therefore also of Abraham and Isaac? The answer is clear after analyzing Ezekiel 35. The people of Edom hated the children of Israel and shed their blood (see v. 5), sought to take over their lands (see vv. 10, 12), spoke against the Lord (see v. 13), and rejoiced at Israel’s desolation (see v. 15).
Edom as a distinct nation was destroyed, giving further evidence that the Lord keeps His promises. Although the nation is no more, Edom, or Idumea (see v. 15), has become a symbol for the wicked world that exists today (see D&C 1:36; see also Jeremiah 49:7–22; Obadiah 1; Notes and Commentary on Jeremiah 49; Obadiah 1).
(27-19) Ezekiel 36. The House of Israel Will Be Gathered to Their Own Lands
None of the following events have fully transpired, though today is the day when these prophecies are being fulfilled:
Those men who will multiply upon the land are from all the house of Israel, not just the kingdom of Judah (see v. 10).
Those who return will be gathered from the heathen and from all countries (see v. 24).
They are to be cleansed from their filthiness (see v. 25).
They are to be converted to the Lord and receive His Spirit (see vv. 26–27).
Verses 28–38 explain that the recovery of Israel will be quite remarkable and will be done for the Lord’s reasons, not because Israel has earned it (see v. 32). The Israel of the future must be spiritually worthy and must submit themselves to the Lord’s will.
(27-20) Ezekiel 37:1–14. Is Ezekiel’s Vision of the Valley of Bones about the Resurrection or about the Renewal of the House of Israel?
Often prophetic utterances have dual meanings. Such is the case for the well-known allegory of the scattered dry bones. The beauty of prophecy is that the Lord can reveal to those who are spiritually alert more than one truth in one prophecy.
Sidney B. Sperry wrote the following commentary on the dual nature of this prophecy: “It will be seen from this passage that the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead … is invoked to symbolize the restoration of Israel’s exiles to their own land. The exiles are represented—so it seems to me—as having lost hope (their bones are dried up) of ever living again as a nation. But the Lord shows them that they can be restored through His mighty power even as the dead will be raised in the resurrection. The doctrine of the resurrection of the body is assumed. Some writers contend that the idea of resurrection was not known among the Hebrews at this early time. But the fact that Ezekiel speaks as he did would seem to me an indication that the doctrine had long been understood in Israel. Any true prophet would understand the doctrine of the resurrection, so Latter-day Saints believe, and Israel had had many prophets long before Ezekiel’s time.” (The Voice of Israel’s Prophets, pp. 225–26.)
The symbolic meaning of this prophecy as it relates to the gathering of Israel is apparent: The bones represent Israel in its lost and scattered state; the graves indicate where Israel is as well as its condition of spiritual death. The spirit, or ruach in Hebrew (see Ezekiel 37:9), means the new spirit of righteousness the people will have when they have been resurrected, that is, restored from their fallen state. The source of this new life will be the Holy Ghost.
But Ezekiel’s account of the Resurrection is literal, as well as symbolic of the future gathering of Israel. Elder Bruce R. McConkie testified: “There is nothing more real, more literal, more personal than the resurrection, as Ezekiel then beheld in vision. He saw the dead live again, live literally and personally, each one becoming in physical makeup as he had been in mortality. It was with each of them as it would be with their Lord, when he, having also come forth from his valley of dry bones, stood in the upper room with his disciples, ate before them, and permitted them to handle his physical body. To his people the Lord’s voice came: ‘I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.’ (Ezek. 37:1–14.) He who shall do all this, as we are now acutely aware, is the Lord Jesus Christ who is the God of Israel.” (The Promised Messiah, pp. 270–71.)
(27-21) Ezekiel 37:15–20. What Is the Symbolism of the Two Sticks Being Joined Together?
This passage is another example of the dual nature of prophecy. Sperry explained: “What is the meaning of these ‘sticks’ and what is their significance? Most commentators simply believe that each piece of wood represents one of the two kingdoms, either Judah or Israel (Ephraim), which are to be bound together or united under the Lord’s direction. This act symbolizes the reunion of Ephraim and Judah into one kingdom. … However, the Latter-day Saints insist that such an interpretation is by no means complete. … What they do believe is that each of the sticks represents a scripture, a significant piece of writing. The Bible represents the scripture of Judah. To an average person not of our faith this conclusion may seem reasonable, but he will ask immediately what scripture represents the stick of Ephraim. To which we reply, the Book of Mormon. The Nephite scripture is the record of the descendants upon this continent of Joseph who was sold into Egypt.” (Voice of Israel’s Prophets, pp. 226–27.)
The Doctrine and Covenants and the Book of Mormon affirm that Ezekiel’s prophecy deals with the Bible and the Book of Mormon being joined together. Doctrine and Covenants 27:5teaches that the Book of Mormon is the stick of Ephraim. The Book of Mormon, in 1 Nephi 13:40–41; 2 Nephi 29:10–14; and Mormon 7:8–9speaks of the records of the Jews and the records of the Nephites being gathered together into one.
The sign that Jesus Christ gave the Nephites that the restoration of the tribes of Israel was at hand was the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, which made the combining of the records possible (see 3 Nephi 20:46; 21:1–7; 29:1). This truth is sustained by Elder Bruce R. McConkie: “Because [the Book of Mormon] came forth, as the seeric insight of Ezekiel has so plainly set forth, latter-day Israel would be gathered, her people would become clean before the Lord, he would make with them again his everlasting gospel covenant, and his tabernacle and temple would be in their midst forevermore. (Ezek. 37:15–28.)” (Promised Messiah, p. 146.)
(27-22) Ezekiel 37:15–17. What Was the Meaning Anciently of the Word Stick?
Bible scholars who are not Latter-day Saints have insisted that the traditional Christian interpretation of the word stick should be a “rod or scepter” rather than a record of some kind. They conclude that uniting the two tribal scepters vividly symbolizes the reunification of the divided tribes. But as Keith H. Meservy pointed out:
“Recent exciting discoveries now confirm the correctness of Joseph Smith’s interpretation in a way impossible in 1830. But before discussing these new discoveries, let’s take a quick look at some linguistic points. Both stick, in the English King James Version, and rod, in the Greek Septuagint Version, are very unusual translations of the Hebrew word etz … whose basic meaning is wood . …
“The modern nation of Iraq includes almost all of Mesopotamia, the homeland of the ancient kingdoms of Assyria and Babylonia. In 593 B.C., when Ezekiel was called to be a prophet, he was living in exile in Babylonia. … As he walked its streets, he would have seen the typical scribe pressing a wedge-shaped stylus into moist clay tablets to make the complex writings familiar to us as cuneiform (wedge-shaped). But scholars today know that other kinds of records were being made in Mesopotamia: papyrus, parchment, and wooden tablets. Though only the clay tablets have survived the millennia, writers referred to the other writing materials on their clay tablets. [One such writing style was called “wood tablets.”]
“Modern archaeologists knew what papyrus and parchment were, but what were these wood tablets? How could cuneiform be written on wood? …
“… Some years ago … San Nicolo [an archaeologist] remembered that Romans and Greeks both made wooden wax tablets for record-keeping purposes out of boards whose surfaces had been cut below the edges in order to hold a thin coating of wax. Scribes wrote on the wax. The raised edges protected the inscribed surfaces when two tablets were put together.
“Could the Babylonians have done the same thing? … Five years later, … a discovery made in the territory that had been ancient Assyria confirmed his theory to the letter.
“The discovery, directed by archaeologist Max Mallowan, was made in a layer of sludge deep in a well in Nimrod, a city known as Calah in the Bible. … By the end of the day workmen had found … fragments of two complete sets of tablets, one of ivory and the other of walnut, each composed of sixteen boards. …
“All of the surfaces of the boards were cut down a tenth of an inch, leaving a half-inch-wide raised edge all around. The lowered surfaces provided a bed for wax filling, of which some thin biscuit-like fragments were found either still adhering to the boards or mixed in the sludge nearby. …
“The cover boards … had hinge marks on both sides, making it evident that all sixteen in each set had once been joined together like a Japanese folding screen. The whole work made such an extensive record that Mallowan could announce his discovery as the oldest known example of a book. …
“With these things in mind, we can see how we might translate Ezekiel 37:15–17in this way:
“‘These were the words of the Lord to me: Man, take one leaf of a wooden tablet and write on it, “Judah and his associates of Israel.” Then take another leaf and write on it, “Joseph, the leaf [wooden tablet] of Ephraim and all his associates of Israel.”
“‘Now bring the two together to form one tablet; then they will be a folding tablet in your hand.’
“This translation is faithful to what we now know of Ezekiel’s language and culture.” (“Ezekiel’s ‘Sticks,’” Ensign, Sept. 1977, pp. 24–26.)
(27-23) Ezekiel 37:26–28. A Latter-day Temple in Jerusalem
Ezekiel prophesied in 37:26–28 about a holy sanctuary or temple that would be part of the great reunification of Israel. Soon after this vision, Ezekiel received a detailed vision of what the new temple in Jerusalem would be like (see Ezekiel 40–48). President Joseph Fielding Smith said: “Ezekiel predicted the building of a temple in Jerusalem which will be used for ordinance work after the gathering of Israel from their long dispersion and when they are cleansed from their transgressions” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:244).
(27-24) Ezekiel 38–39. The Battle of Gog and Magog
The following from Elder Bruce R. McConkie sums up the events of the battle of Armageddon:
“Our Lord is to come again in the midst of the battle of Armageddon, or in other words during the course of the great war between Israel and Gog and Magog. At the Second Coming all nations of the earth are to be engaged in battle, and the fighting is to be in progress in the area of Jerusalem and Armageddon. (Zech. 11; 12; 13; Rev. 16:14–21.) The prophecies do not name the modern nations which will be fighting for and against Israel, but the designation Gog and Magog is given to the combination of nations which are seeking to overthrow and destroy the remnant of the Lord’s chosen seed.
“The 38th and 39th chapters of Ezekiel record considerable prophetic detail relative to this great war. It should be noted that it is to take place ‘in the latter years’; that it will be fought in the ‘mountains of Israel’ against those who have been gathered to the land of their ancient inheritance; that the land of Israel shall be relatively unprotected, a ‘land of unwalled villages’; that Gog and Magog shall come ‘out of the north parts’ in such numbers as ‘to cover the land’ as a cloud; that the Lord will then come, and all men shall shake at his presence; that there will be such an earthquake as has never before been known, which will throw down the mountains; that there will be pestilence, blood, fire, and brimstone descend upon the armies; that the forces of Gog and Magog will be destroyed upon the mountains of Israel; that the Supper of the Great God shall then take place as the beasts and fowls eat the flesh and drink the blood of the fallen ones (Rev. 19:17–18; D. & C. 29:18–21); and that the house of Israel will be seven months burying the dead and seven years burning the discarded weapons of war.
“In the light of all this and much more that is prophetically foretold about the final great battles in the holy land, is it any wonder that those who are scripturally informed and spiritually enlightened watch world events with great interest as troubles continue to foment in Palestine, Egypt, and the Near East?” (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 324–25.)
That the battle before the Millennium, which is known as the battle of Armageddon, makes reference to Gog and Magog may at first be confusing since the last great battle at the end of the Millennium is called the battle of Gog and Magog by John (see Revelation 20:7–9). But the names “Gog” and “Magog” are used for both battles because they symbolize an alliance of great, evil power. President Joseph Fielding Smith clarified this point as follows: “Before the coming of Christ, the great war, sometimes called Armageddon, will take place as spoken of by Ezekiel, chapters 38 and 39. Another war of Gog and Magog will be after the millennium.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:45.)
Obviously the battle seen by Ezekiel will be one of the greatest events of the world’s history, and so it is not surprising that the prophets speak of it again and again. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Joel, Zechariah, and John the Revelator all speak of it in some detail, and it is mentioned in several places in latter-day scripture. (See Enrichment I.)
(27-25) Ezekiel 38:1–2. Gog and Magog
The terms Gog and Magog are often joined together, as, for example, in the phrase the “battle of Gog and Magog” (see Revelation 20:8). Thus, many people assume the terms refer to two people by those names. Ezekiel 38:1–2shows clearly, however, that Gog is a name of a person and Magog the land from which he comes. Technically, “Gog of Magog” is the correct way to say it. Over the centuries, however, the names have come to mean the combination of nations that will fight against Israel in the last days. (See Notes and Commentary on Ezekiel 38–39.)
(27-26) Ezekiel 38:2–6. Ancient Names and Modern Equivalents
Ezekiel specifically told his readers where Gog, the great military and political leader or leaders of the last days, would come from and with whom he would be allied in the war against Israel. He used names that were current in Old Testament times, though many of these names are not familiar to modern readers. Magog, Meshech, and Tubal were in northern Asia Minor (see v. 2). Persia was in eastern Asia Minor, and Ethiopia and Libya (Cush and Phut) were in Africa (see v. 5). Gomer and Togarmah have been associated with peoples in Asia Minor and Europe (see v. 6; see Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible; Fallows, Bible Encyclopedia; Encyclopaedia Judaica; Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 9:2:159–60.) That these nations would come from north and south, east and west, represents the teaching that all nations will fight against Israel (compare Zechariah 14:2).
(27-27) Ezekiel 38:22. “I Will Rain upon Him … Great Hailstones”
As did Ezekiel, John the Revelator also saw great hailstones raining down on the vast army at Armageddon. He gave their weight at one talent (see Revelation 16:21), which is approximately 75.6 pounds, or 34.3 kilograms (see Bible Dictionary, s.v. “weights and measures”). Ezekiel 38:22is the verse referred to in Doctrine and Covenants 29:21.
(27-28) Ezekiel 39:11. Where Is the Valley of Hamongog?
Ezekiel 39:11depicts a future event and is not making reference to a known location of that day. Hamon in Hebrew means “multitude” (see William Wilson, Old Testament Word Studies, s.v. “multitude”). The name Hamongog therefore means the “multitude of Gog,” indicating that the valley will be so called because of the vast numbers buried there. Since the final battle centers around Jerusalem (see Enrichment I), it is assumed that the valley of Hamongog is somewhere nearby.
(27-29) Ezekiel 40–44. The Vision of a Future Temple
In one of the most remarkable visions of the Old Testament, Ezekiel had the privilege of being carried away by the Spirit to the holy city of Jerusalem to behold on the temple mount the magnificent temple to be built there in the latter days. In Ezekiel 40:3, Ezekiel was introduced to a “man” who subsequently showed him the temple and its measurements. This “man” was probably not the Lord but an authorized messenger.
Elder James E. Talmage described the main features of this temple:
“In the twenty-fifth year of the Babylonian captivity, while yet the people of Israel were in exile in a strange land, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Ezekiel; the power of God rested upon him; and he saw in vision a glorious Temple, the plan of which he minutely described. As to whether the prophet himself considered the design so shown as one to be subsequently realized, or as but a grand yet unattainable ideal, is not declared. Certain it is that the Temple of the vision has not yet been builded.
“In most of its essential features Ezekiel’s ideal followed closely the plan of Solomon’s Temple; so close, indeed, is the resemblance, that many of the details specified by Ezekiel have been accepted as those of the splendid edifice destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. A predominant characteristic of the Temple described by Ezekiel was the spaciousness of its premises and the symmetry of both the Holy House and its associated buildings. The area was to be a square of five hundred cubits, walled about and provided with a gateway and arches on each of three sides; on the west side the wall was to be unbroken by arch or portal. At each of the gateways were little chambers regarded as lodges, and provided with porches. In the outer court were other chambers. The entire area was to be elevated, and a flight of steps led to each gateway. In the inner court was seen the great altar, standing before the House, and occupying the center of a square of one hundred cubits. Ample provision was made for every variety of sacrifice and offering, and for the accommodation of the priests, the singers, and all engaged in the holy ritual. The main structure comprised a Porch, a Holy Place, and an inner sanctuary or Most Holy Place, the last named elevated above the rest and reached by steps. The plan provided for even greater exclusiveness than had characterized the sacred area of the Temple of Solomon; the double courts contributed to this end. The service of the Temple was prescribed in detail; the ordinances of the altar, the duties of the priests, the ministry of the Levites, the regulations governing oblations and feasts were all set forth.
“The immediate purpose of this revelation through the vision of the prophet appears to have been that of awakening the people of Israel to a realization of their fallen state and a conception of their departed glory.” (The House of the Lord, pp. 37–38.)
(27-30) Ezekiel 40:45–46. Who Are the Sons of Zadok?
The heavenly messenger explained to Ezekiel that the Levites who would keep charge of the holy house would be the sons of Zadok. Zadok was a righteous high priest in the days of King Solomon. Zadok replaced Abiathar (see 1 Kings 2:26–27, 35) because of his loyalty to David and Solomon. Zadok was the first high priest to officiate in Solomon’s temple. Apparently the Lord desired the descendants of the righteous Zadok to officiate in the latter-day temple in Jerusalem (see Ezekiel 44:15; 48:11).
(27-31) Ezekiel 43:1–5; 44:4. The Glory of God Fills the Temple
The glory of God is manifest in the brightness and power of His divine presence. It is expected that the glory of the Lord would fill His holy house in Jerusalem. Unquestionably, His glory has filled all of the temples that have been built in His name and by His authority. (see Numbers 9:15–18; 2 Chronicles 5:13–14; Ezra 6:14–16; D&C 110:1–5; 124:27–28, 38–41.)
(27-32) Ezekiel 43:18–27. What Sacrifices Will Be Offered in the Temple?
President Joseph Fielding Smith explained:
“When these temples [the temple seen by Ezekiel and others to be built in the New Jerusalem] are built, it is very likely that provision will be made for some ceremonies and ordinances which may be performed by the Aaronic Priesthood and a place provided where the sons of Levi may offer their offering in righteousness. This will have to be the case because all things are to be restored. There were ordinances performed in ancient Israel in the tabernacle when in the wilderness, and after it was established at Shiloh in the land of Canaan, and later in the temple built by Solomon. The Lord has informed us that this was the case and has said that in those edifices ordinances for the people were performed. …
“We are living in the dispensation of the fulness of times into which all things are to be gathered, and all things are to be restored since the beginning. Even this earth is to be restored to the condition which prevailed before Adam’s transgression. Now in the nature of things, the law of sacrifice will have to be restored, or all things which were decreed by the Lord would not be restored. It will be necessary, therefore, for the sons of Levi, who offered the blood sacrifices anciently in Israel, to offer such a sacrifice again to round out and complete this ordinance in this dispensation. Sacrifice by the shedding of blood was instituted in the days of Adam and of necessity will have to be restored.
“The sacrifice of animals will be done to complete the restoration when the temple spoken of is built; at the beginning of the millennium, or in the restoration, blood sacrifices will be performed long enough to complete the fulness of the restoration in this dispensation. Afterwards sacrifice will be of some other character.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:93–94.)
(27-33) Ezekiel 45:1–8; 47:13–48:29. How Will the Land Be Divided among the Tribes of Israel?
According to Ezekiel’s vision of the future, the Holy Land will be divided in strips running between the Mediterranean Sea on the west and the Dead Sea and the Jordan River on the east. Each of the twelve tribes will be given a strip of land with a strip out of the middle for the prince, the city, and the Levites, that is, the priests. Joseph will receive a double portion (Ezekiel 47:13) since Ephraim and Manasseh, Joseph’s sons, both became tribes in Israel. The city will have twelve gates, one for each tribe (including Levi and one for Joseph). On the north will be the tribes of Reuben, Judah, and Levi; on the east will be Joseph, Benjamin, and Dan; on the south will be Simeon, Issachar, and Zebulun; on the west will be Gad, Asher, and Naphtali. Jerusalem will then be called the Lord is there (Jehovah-shammah; see Ezekiel 48:35). There will be a gathering there of the scattered tribes of Israel, and the temple that Ezekiel saw in vision will be central in location and function in that gathering.
Regarding the inheritances of Joseph’s descendants in the Middle East, Sperry commented: “Of interest to the Latter-day Saints is the fact that provision is made for the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. It is quite evident from Ezekiel’s vision that not all of Joseph’s descendants are to have their inheritance on the American continent, as some of our people have supposed. We may be justified in believing, however, that most of Joseph’s seed will be provided for on this land (see Ether 13:5–12), but Ezekiel very obviously implies that some of Joseph’s descendants will dwell in Palestine.” (Voice of Israel’s Prophets, pp. 236–37.)
(27-34) Ezekiel 47:1–12. Waters Issue from the Temple
The Prophet Joseph Smith proclaimed: “Judah must return, Jerusalem must be rebuilt, and the temple, and water come out from under the temple, and the waters of the Dead Sea be healed. It will take some time to rebuild the walls of the city and the temple, &c; and all this must be done before the Son of Man will make His appearance.” (Teachings, p. 286.)
The waters issuing forth from under the temple and the healing of the Dead Sea may occur when the Lord Himself sets foot upon the Mount of Olives, causing this mountain to divide in two and create a large valley (see Zechariah 14:4; D&C 133:20–24; Enrichment I).
(27-35) Ezekiel 47:22–23. Who Are These Strangers?
Undoubtedly there will be converts who are not part of blood Israel who will receive an inheritance because of their devotion to the gospel. They will then be adopted into the house of Israel. These strangers may be some of the gentile peoples who will accept the gospel in the last days.
(27-36) Ezekiel 48:31–34. The Gates of the City
see Revelation 22:13–17for the requirements one must fill to enter in the gates of the holy city.
(27-37) Ezekiel 48:35. Jerusalem Will Be Called Holy
The Joseph Smith Translation reads: “And the name of the city from that day shall be called, Holy; for the Lord shall be there” (see JST, Ezekiel 48:35; emphasis added). The temple will be built as a symbol to Israel that the Lord is with His people.
Points to Ponder
(27-38) Making the Prophecies Live Today
These chapters have shown the great prophetic insight with which the Lord blessed Ezekiel. Certainly the Lord trusted Ezekiel. He knew that this prophet among the exiles in Babylonia would see that these precious truths would be safely recorded and delivered to the nations of the earth.
Do you rejoice when you read the prophecies of Ezekiel? Does your soul burn within you to realize that the Lord is at the helm in the affairs of His children and that He will bring again His people Israel to their lands of promise and cleanse iniquity from their midst? Do you thrill with the knowledge that He will protect Israel from her enemies and punish the wicked and that a great and magnificent temple will be built upon Mount Moriah in the holy city Jerusalem for the tribe of Judah? If you had been in the presence of the Jews in Babylon, would you “know that a prophet hath been among them”? (Ezekiel 33:33).
Certainly we cannot take for granted that the prophecies of Ezekiel will come to pass. We must do as Nephi did when he heard Lehi’s recital of the vision of the tree of life and personally seek a confirmation of the truthfulness of Ezekiel’s vision from the Lord (see 1 Nephi 10:17). Ezekiel himself was taught by the same principle (see Ezekiel 44:5).
As you seek to know the truthfulness of what the prophets have revealed, remember that obtaining that knowledge is a gradual process. The Lord said: “I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are they who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom” (2 Nephi 28:30).
Take some time to reflect upon, ponder, and pray about the significance of Ezekiel’s great message. “Treasure these things up in your hearts, and let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your minds” (D&C 43:34).
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