In 1996, James Jordan argued that Ezekiel 38-39 was fulfilled in the book of Esther. He also argued that King Ahasuerus was Darius. I found his argument convincing and did further research of my own. This is my attempt to further the discussion. The following points are a summary of the main arguments showing the connections of Esther with the battle of Gog and Magog. For further details, see the Esther Series sermons.
- An Agagite (see Esther 3:1,10; 8:3,5; 9:24) = any leader of Amalek (Numb 24:7; 1 Sam. 15:8; see Jewish Encyclopedia). Therefore, Haman represents the ancient spiritual struggle between Amalek and Israel (Ex. 17:8-16; Deut. 25:17-19).
- The Amalekites were descendants of Magog, the son of Japheth (deduction of Gen. 10:2; Numb. 24:20; 24:7 in LXX; Ezek. 38:17; Ex. 17:16; Josephus) So there is also a Magog connection.
- Gog = Agag (cf. Numb. 24:7 in Hebrew and then compare to LXX) The difference in spelling can be explained by the differences in Persian and Hebrew pronunciation. So there is a Gog connection to the story of Esther as well. Saying that Haman was an Agagite is (using different national pronunciation) the same thing as saying that he is a Gogite.
- Gog and Magog cannot be a new people who are unmentioned before the time of Ezekiel. Though this is the first time that a nation is mentioned by this name, Ezekiel says, "Are you not the one I spoke of in former days by my servants the prophets of Israel? At that time they prophesied for years that I would bring you against them." (Ezek. 38:17). If Gog and Magog are Amalek, then this makes sense. Many prophets spoke of Amalek including Moses (Ex. 17:16, etc), Balaam (Numb. 24:20), Samuel (1 Sam. 15:1-3,17-23), Deborah (Judges 5:14), Gideon (Judges 6-7), an unnamed prophet (Judges 10:11-14), David (1 Sam. 30) and Asaph (Psalm 83). They prophesied of multi-generational warfare in Exodus 17:16; Numb. 14:43; 24:20; Deut. 25:17-19; 1 Sam. 14:48; 15:18; etc.
- Haman's name appears in Ezekiel's prophecy as Hamon (39:11,15,16). Again, this slight change in pronunciation (which is common with other names) can be explained by the language differences. The phrase, "the valley of Hamon of Gog" would then be equivalent to Haman of Agag (or "Haman the Agagite").
- The battle of Ezekiel occurs when Jerusalem and the other towns still have no walls (Ezek. 38:11). This rules out an interpretation in the days of the Maccabees or later since Jerusalem has had walls ever since Nehemiah built them. However, at this point in Esther's story, no walls have been built. Nehemiah has not yet started that work.
- The battle engages the same nations as are in the empire under Darius, year 12 (510 BC). (See map.) Note that India is not conquered by Darius until year 16 (506 BC). (See my paper defending the theory that Darius is King Ahasuerus.) It is very significant that Ezekiel excludes India from the battle of Gog and Magog. (Ezek. 38:5,6,8,12,23,13; 39:1,6,7,21,27,28 with Esther 3:12-14) See map with details. In Ezekiel's description, Persia is the far eastern border, Ethiopia is the far southwestern border, Dedan in the south and Togarmah on the far, far north. And then Ezekiel covers everything in between by mentioning all the nations of the empire. We've already read in Esther 3:12-14 that this decree went out to every nation and province and chapter 9 indicates the conflict happened in every province. Again, it places the fulfillment of this within the reign of a king who rules over a vast region that includes India and Ethiopia – Darius fits the bill.
- This empire-wide conflict is led by a mere prince rather than by the emperor, and yet this prince is called the "chief prince" implying that he was one of several princes in the empire (cf. Ezek. 38:2,3; 39:1 NIV with Esther 3:1)
- The seven months wait in Ezekiel 39:12-16 is equivalent to the time from Purim till the Feast of Tabernacles when cleansing waters are made with the ashes of the heifer.
- Israel has just recently come back into the land (Ezek. 38:8 makes Ezek. 38-39 sequential with Ezek. 34-37)
- Occurs in a time when Israel is divided up into tribes (37:19) This rules out any interpretation after the Middle Ages since Israel is so intermixed that there are no tribal divisions discernible.
- The enemy lives in a time when they use horses (38:15), swords (38:4)arrows, bows, war clubs (39:9), and wood instruments (39:10). Again, this would tend to rule out any fulfillment future to us.
- In Esther the fighting occurs in every province. In Ezekiel we see a focus on Palestine, but Ezekiel indicates that "all the nations will see the punishment" (Ezek. 39:21) and God will "send fire on Magog and on those who live in safety in the coastlands" (Ezek. 39:6). So both passages portray fighting universally, and not just in Palestine.
- The motive in both passages involves anti-Semitic hatred (see hatred of Haman in Esther 3:6,8-9 and his designation as "the enemy of the Jews" [3:10;9:1,10]. Also notice the phrase "those who hated them" [9:1]; cf. Ezek. 38:16).
- Another motive in both passages is the desire to plunder the Jews (Ezek. 38:12,13; 39:10; Esther 3:13)
- Both passages show that the Jews were authorized to plunder those who fought against them (Esther 8:11; Ezek. 39:10). Yet both passages imply that the enemy was under the ban, and that the plunder was therefore to be devoted to the Lord. Notice the sacrificial language in Ezekiel 39:17-20. According to Ezekiel, these Amalekites and all that they had were being sacrificed upon the table of the Lord. This may explain why the Jews in Esther "did not lay a hand upon the plunder" of Haman's ten sons (Esther 9:10), or the Jewish enemies in Shushan (9:15) or the Jewish enemies in the provinces (Esther 9:16). James Jordan's hypothesis is that the money was devoted to the temple. (In this connection, notice the preoccupation with the restored temple in the chapters after Ezekiel 39.)
- In both passages Gentiles are called to arms against Israel by the prince (Ezek. 38:8 in NIV [Heb = dqp]; Esther 3:13-14)
- The planned destruction of the Jews is reversed in both passages and comes upon the enemy.
- There are an enormous number of dead in both passages. (Ezek. 39:12-16; Esther 9:12-16))
- In both passages, God disarms many of the enemies before they can even use their weapons (Ezek. 39:3; Esther 9:2). This may account for the enormous numbers of weapons being burned in Ezekiel 39:9-10. Perhaps those who changed sides and favored Israel might have been required to symbolically turn over their weapons.
- In both passages there are Gentiles who fight on behalf of Israel against their own nationality (Ezek. 38:21; Esther 9:3; 8:17)
- In both passages the fear of the Lord falls upon the Gentiles and there is a conversion of Gentiles to the true faith (Ezek. 38:23; 39:7; Esther 8:17)
- In both passages Israel is humbled and drawn into a closer walk with God (Ezek. 39:22,21-29; Esther 4:1,3,15-16).
- In both passages, Israel (the Jews) gain respect and influence among the nations (Ezek. 39:21; ,23,27; Esther 8:17; 9:3-4; 10:1-3)
- Though this last point is questionable, it may be that the memorial (?) fires were kept burning for seven years after the battle (39:9-10) because this is the period of time it would take until Nehemiah built the walls. (See James Jordan's revisionist history as well as the proofs in my paper on the identity of King Ahasuerus.
Since points 6,11 and 12 rule out a future interpretation, and since Gog and Magog represent a nation that has been mentioned repeatedly in the Bible prior to Ezekiel (point 4), and since the near annihilation of the Jews in the book of Esther is an event of huge significance, and since Ezekiel’s prophecy seems to fit the descriptions in Esther to the smallest details, we should assume that Esther is the fulfillment unless there is strong evidence to the contrary. It is this author’s firm conviction that Ezekiel’s battle of Gog and Magog is fulfilled. The battle of Gog and Magog in Revelation 20 has so many differences with Ezekiel’s descriptions that most commentators agree it is an entirely different battle. Revelation uses the extinct people of Magog as a symbol of an entirely different revolt in the same way that it uses the extinct people of Sodom as a symbol of apostate Jerusalem in Revelation 11:8. In other words, Revelation is using well known, fulfilled history to teach new moral lessons in God’s governance of the nations.
"Agagite" can only be interpreted here as synonymous with "Amalekite" (compare "Agag," king of the Amalekites, the foe of Saul, I Sam. xv. 8, 20, 32; Num. xxiv. 7 … Oppert's attempt to connect the term "Agagite" with "Agaz," a Median tribe mentioned by Sargon, can not be taken seriously. ↩
Moore says, "Regardless of its original meaning, now it clearly represents a nomen gentilicium, meaning a descendant of Agag, king of the Amalekites. This is the view of Josephus (who rendered it amalekiten, the Talmud, and the Targums, as well as most commentators, who rightly view Haman as a descendant of the Amalekites, a people who frustrated Israel in Exodus xvii 8-16, whose downfall was predicted by Balaam (Num xxiv 7), and whose King Agag was slaughtered with many (1 Sam. xv 8) but not all (1 Chron iv 42f.) of the Amalekites." ↩
Note that the Amalekites are not descendants of Amalek, the grandson of Esau (cf. Gen. 36:12,16) since the Amalekites were already a major force to contend with in the day sof Abraham (Gen. 14:7). Furthermore, the Amalekites who were under God's curse in Exodus and following were said to be the "first (tyvar) of the nations" (Numb. 24:20). If they are identified with Magog, this makes sense. ↩
"Gog signifies 'high' and eminent, one in a very exalted station: it comes from the same root, and has the same signification, as Agag, to whose height and exaltation there is an allusion in Num 24:7 … where the Samaritan and Septuagint versions read Gog: it is the same with Arabic, 'Jagog', by which name the Arabians called the Scythians…" (the New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible) ↩
Of course, it is possible that this does not refer to every Israelite burning wood. Ezekiel could be intending either 1) memorial fires, or 2) temple fires that were kept burning for 7 years. If the Amalekites were put under the ban by God (see above and see the requirement in 1 Samuel 15, especially verse 3), then it would make sense that this was a gathering of wood for holy purposes. Perhaps this was a gathering of weapons to be burned in the temple. ↩
Though defending a futurist interpretation, one author correctly notes the following: "According to Ezk.39:15 seven months shall be needed to "cleanse the land". This gives another clue to when this prophecy might be fulfilled. According to Num. 19 anyone who touches a dead body must be cleansed, within a seven day period, with water mixed with ashes of the unblemished red heifer. The water needed for this cleansing is only drawn out of the Pool of Siloam, beginning on the 2nd day of the Feast of Tabernacles, called Simchat Beit Hashoevah. Until the ashes of the red heifer are available, and until the water is drawn during the Feast of Tabernacles, there will be no way possible to safely bury dead bodies left from the battle of Gog / Magog and remain undefiled under Mosaic law. This is why Ezk.39 says that for seven months the people of Israel will only place markers to point out where dead bodies lie. After 7 months Israel will employ people to bury the dead because they will be able to return from their work and be cleansed within the required time specified by Num. 19-- within 3 days after defilement, to be ended on the 7th day cleansing period. More specifically, the Feast of Purim is seven months prior to the Feast of Tabernacles, and those employed to bury the dead after a Purim battle would have to wait until the following Feast of Tabernacles to ensure that they would not be unclean for longer than seven days after touching these dead bodies." ↩