The UK Bible Students Website
Christian Biblical Studies
ISRAEL AND ‘THE NORTH PARTS’
By W. Resume
All Scripture citations are to the King James (Authorised) Version
Ezekiel 38: 15, 16:
Thou shalt come out of thy place in the north parts, thou [Gog], and many people with thee . . . And thou shalt come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days . . . .
Question: What is meant by Gog coming from the ‘north parts’?
Answer: The term, ‘north parts’, is reminiscent of the ‘land of the north’, referred to in Jeremiah 16: 14-16, in which Jehovah promises that He will gather the Jewish diaspora from the ‘land of the north’ and ‘bring them again’ into their own land.
It’s probably safe to say that the Jeremiah 16 passage refers to Russia of the late nineteenth century. Many students of biblical prophecy interpret it so. In hindsight, the prophecy appears to have worked out this way, and prophecies are understood only when looking back. Corroborating factors for this particular interpretation are:
1. Russia was the most powerful empire situated geographically north of Israel, the vantage point of the prophecy;
2. Most of the world’s scattered Jews had settled in that country;
3. It was in Russia that the dispersed Jews received their worst persecution to date (the ‘hunters’ of Jeremiah 16: 16). Of this period The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia writes: ‘the intensive reaction which followed the assassination of Alexander II in 1881 made the Jews its chief victims’. The attempted destruction over the following years drove Jews out of Russia in vast numbers, especially to the United States and Palestine, then under British control.
The World Has Changed – And How!
But it does not follow that one must conflate the prophetic location of the ‘land of the north’ of Jeremiah with the reference to the ‘north parts’ mentioned in Ezekiel. A prophecy fulfilled in one period and in a specific fashion is not always an infallible guide to the outworking of a related prophecy yet future.
Although today’s Russia retains a massive military force and is a ‘resource’ power, exporting grain, minerals and energy, the nation does not wield the same proportional international clout as the imperial Russia of the late 19th century. And the other principal national actors on the world stage today are different than those of over a century ago. In the late 1800s Russia vied principally with the British Empire and with major European powers (France, Italy, a newly consolidated Germany) for influence in the Mediterranean and what we now call the Middle East. The United States was then a relative political and military lightweight, China was reclusive, and India was a tributary nation. In the decades since, there have been two world wars and numerous regional wars, not to mention upheavals in matters economic, political, technological, scientific, medical, social, religious and demographic, all of which have massively combined to reconfigure the international status quo.
The prophecy of Jeremiah 16 was apt for a specific point in history, and it was fulfilled within that context. Although the common factor in many, if not most, prophecies is Israel – the Old Testament is Israel-centric – other actors in the prophetic pictures change over time, for history does not stand still.
The Ezekiel 38 passage seems to suggest that from the ‘north parts’ will come an assault against Israel by a power specified only as ‘Gog’, in the close of this present age (‘the latter days’), possibly in concert with a multi-national force (‘thou, and many people with thee’). That this prophecy could be fulfilled by Russia alone does not appear tenable as things stand now. While God’s prophecies are always fulfilled, they do not usually unfold in the way one might predict, as human predictions are usually faulty.
Were Russia to fill the principal prophetic role of Gog or the ‘north parts’ , the attack on Israel and Israel’s subsequent deliverance by the Messiah, would seem to be a long way off. For this to happen, Russia would need to experience a resurgence of international power and influence. This is still possible, but if current trends are a guide, increasingly unlikely. Perhaps we cannot know in advance who or what is meant by Gog and the ‘north parts’.
Article copyright August 2012 ukbiblestudents.co.uk
You are free to reproduce this material or to quote from it, but please let us know if you do so.